Parliament has questioned Sh1.9 billion in payments by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in the fiscal year that ended Tuesday. The legislators claim that the military failed to give a breakdown of the expenditure only stating vaguely that the money was “grants and disbursements to other national and county government”.
This is a valid concern by Parliament and ought to be addressed in the spirit of accountability. Although we appreciate the long-running tradition of secrecy in military spending, there should be some element of openness because while opacity has its benefits in war, it weakens sound policy making and accountability.
As such, it would only be right for KDF to seize this opportunity and clarify its expenditure to Parliament and perhaps adopt more transparent ways of reporting its financials in future.
Research by leading defence think-tanks such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) have shown that militaries across the world are increasingly opening up their books for scrutiny – which is a good thing in terms of building confidence in the way tax money is spent.
Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, have taken strides to institutionalise transparency in their military expenditures.
Lack of transparency in any public expenditure creates avenues for graft.
Besides, lack of oversight in the manner in which the military budget and arms purchases are decided and controlled bear the risk of higher inefficiency in military spending and questionable purchases, thus adding pressure on already strained public resources.
These risks can be avoided through enhanced transparency and accountability in military budgeting and procurement processes.
Like any public expenditure, military spending should be guided by sound financial management and oversight practices.