10 February 2019

Kenya: Ruto's Staff Hit By Unpaid Allowances Over Budget Cuts

Deputy President William Ruto's office has been hit by acute budget cuts, with fingers pointed at influential individuals in the Jubilee administration playing power games to frustrate him.

The various outreach teams attached to the Deputy President -- including his large media crew, security, drivers and protocol officers -- are yet to receive their allowances since the final quarter of last year, severely curtailing their movements across the country.

ALLOWANCES

In a single day, the teams typically travel separately in advance to multiple locations -- sometimes up to four or five places -- by road with the Deputy President mostly shuttling using a helicopter.

The move could be seen as part of a scheme to curtail the countrywide activities of the "tanga tanga" team made up of politicians rooting for Dr Ruto's 2022 presidential ambitions, who have been accused of engaging in early campaigns that threaten President Uhuru Kenyatta's legacy.

The President has in recent weeks asked politicians to focus on development.

The last per diem paid out to staff who travel with the deputy president, according to multiple sources, was when he visited Marsabit County on August 31, last year. The same sources also said their counterparts in the President's side have not had issues with their allowances. The budget for Dr Ruto's office, under the presidency, is in the hands of State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua.

A senior civil servant who spoke in confidence stated that staff in the deputy president's office are owed between Sh200,000 to Sh1.2 million each in allowances, depending on one's job group.

The new reality has meant the scaling down of Dr Ruto's tours across the country, compounded by pressure to lower political activity and appointment of Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang'i to chair the high-level Cabinet Development Committee. Dr Ruto has also had to cut down on the delegations to his Karen home.

Previously, DP's tours used to start on Friday and sometimes continued until Monday.

REFERENDUM

But the Deputy President's spokesman David Mugonyi denied there were budgetary constraints.

"Those are lies, total lies. It is not true at all," Mr Mugonyi said when asked about the unpaid dues.

But a close ally of the Deputy President, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed "there was a problem with some payments" but said Dr Ruto had already taken up the matter with Mr Mbugua and Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich since the office has no separate budget.

According to the 2018/2019 government estimates published by the Treasury, the DP's office was allocated Sh880 million, lumped together with the larger budget allocated to the presidency.

Mr Mbugua, the State House Comptroller, did not respond to our requests for a comment.

Dr Ruto travelled to London earlier in the week and gave a speech at Chatham House on Friday. However, he was recalled to take charge as the President left for the African Union Summit in Ethiopia.

In what may change the course of the referendum debate, the DP in his address at the Chatham House proposed the creation of the office of official opposition, making the Senate an upper House, having CSs who are also ex officio MPs and allowing the DP to lead government business in Parliament. He left no misgivings that he would oppose the return of prime minister's position.

His proposal not only sets tone for the debate on changing the supreme laws but also thrusts him on collision path with the faction led by President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga who seem to favour the creation of a powerful premier's position.

PROVOCATION

"I have heard suggestions -- some even by opposition leaders -- that the National Executive should be expanded to accommodate a prime minister as well as two deputies as a means of addressing the winner take it all challenge. This suggestion has two problems: It does not solve the problem which is that we need a functional, constitutional official opposition and the positions, if created would still be taken by the winning party," the DP argued.

Soi MP Caleb Kositany, who also doubles as Jubilee deputy secretary-general sought to downplay the issue.

"I don't think there is a calculated move to cut the money flow to DP's office. Even MPs are yet to receive CDF (National Government Constituency Development Fund) money seven months into the government financial year. They have only managed to send Sh10 million per constituency (as opposed to about Sh100 million). It can be a bigger problem in government on money flows and it is not necessarily in the presidency," he said.

Unhappy in the manner some people around the President have treated Dr Ruto, some of the deputy president's allies are threatening to take the battle to Parliament, which resumes on Tuesday.

One of the most vocal critics of the deputy president has been former Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe, who has vowed to lead efforts to block Dr Ruto from succeeding President Kenyatta.

Dr Ruto has in several meetings told his key lieutenants not to take on those attacking him head-on but to downplay any provocation.

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