EDITORIAL: Lavish civil service travel perks must be stopped
Wednesday, July 15, 2020 1:26
That the country will save about Sh2.5 billion monthly due to Covid-19 related restrictions on local and foreign trips by employees of national government, counties and parastatals is a wake-up call to permanently review such expenditure.
The World Bank in its latest review of Kenya’s expenditure says the country will save up to Sh30 billion in the year to June 2021 or Sh2.5 billion monthly from such reduced local and foreign trips — which often involve lavish travel allowances.
The suspension of meetings and travel to contain the spread of coronavirus has denied employees of the national government, the county governments, and parastatals opportunities to boost wages through perks such as mileage, sitting and subsistence allowances earned from local and foreign travel.
This development offers a perfect opportunity to permanently streamline this segment of public expenditure which has, for many decades, been exploited by rent-seeking officers.
The untaxed allowances have the effect of more than doubling an employee’s pay, making the civil service the preferred employer for many Kenyans while the taxpayer has very little to show for it in terms of improved living or service delivery.
And as such many public officers have made it a priority to canvass for travel and meetings out of town just to fatten their take-home. It is unacceptable in an economy that is struggling to finance its budget.
This kind of behaviour should stop in the spirit of restoring prudence in public spending. The country has important development expenditure needs such as healthcare, housing, education and infrastructure and public offers should not be allowed to have their snorts in the trough at a time the economy is going through a rough patch.
Key economic sectors such as manufacturing, real estate and tourism are limping, hurting revenue collection and every coin from the public coffers must be put to good use.
Despite the paused travel and meetings, government operations have largely been smooth, meaning such expenditure could be scrapped altogether and the savings re-directed to more deserving causes.
Let it not be business as usual and the Treasury must finance only important travel and meetings.