In a report from the Control of Budget, it has been unveiled that county officials across Kenya have spent a staggering Ksh 17.5 billion on travel in the fiscal year ending June 2023.
This sizeable sum is divided into domestic travel within the counties, amounting to Ksh 15.3 billion, and foreign travel, which accounted for over Ksh 2 billion, covering all 47 counties in Kenya.
When put into perspective, this means that counties spent approximately 4.7% of their total revenue on travel expenses. While travel is undoubtedly essential for governance, the question arises as to whether this spending is justified.
The report highlights that this amount nearly mirrors the Ksh 20.3 billion spent by the national government. With a total of Ksh 37.8 billion spent by both levels of government, it’s imperative to carefully audit where these funds are going.
Breaking down the numbers further, county assemblies are responsible for Ksh 7.3 billion of the total travel expenses, while the executive branch of county governments spent Ksh 10 billion.
A notable finding is that county assemblies allocated a larger portion of their budget to foreign travel than their executive counterparts.
Looking at the destinations of these travels, county officials have been jetting off to various countries, including Singapore, Turkey, Arusha, Dubai, Germany, Israel, Korea, Rwanda, Canada, Colombia, Italy, Egypt, Uganda, DRC, Morocco, India, Sweden, Malaysia, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, and the USA.
Singapore seems to be a preferred destination for benchmarking, while Dubai attracts a significant number of travelers. Arusha in Tanzania is also a hotspot for county officials looking to study legislative work in different environments.
So, what’s prompting these travels? The report indicates that county assemblies frequently embark on benchmarking sessions and workshops focusing on transformative leadership.
Additionally, studies on value addition and education, as well as legislative work training, are driving officials overseas to learn from global experiences.
Examining the high spenders among the counties, Turkana County tops the list, spending Ksh 1.18 billion on local and foreign travel, amounting to 9.3% of their allocation.
Baringo County stands out for one county assembly official who received Ksh 8.4 million in allowances for an eight-day trip to Singapore. Similar high allowances were observed for trips to Turkey, Singapore (again), and Arusha.
Comparatively, the executive arm of the government in various counties also embarked on foreign trips. One striking example is Kembu County, where MCAs traveled to Arusha for legislative work training and benchmarking, accumulating a total of Ksh 104 million in expenses.
While travel is undoubtedly a vital part of governance, these numbers spark discussions on the allocation and utilization of resources.
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Are these trips justified, or could the funds be better used elsewhere? These are the questions raised as Kenyan counties continue to spend billions on travel.