Ruto’s campaigns reel from budget cuts to his office
Budget cuts for the Office of the Deputy President (DP) and the acrimonious fallout with President Uhuru Kenyatta, have forced William Ruto to dig deeper into his pockets to fund operational costs for his office as well as his presidential campaign.
In what could also demonstrate Ruto’s deep pockets, he is reported to have stopped flying in State-owned helicopters and official vehicles assigned to him and has instead resorted to using his private cars and hired helicopters to sustain his vigorous campaign activities.
Yesterday, Ruto’s office confirmed that budget cuts by the National Treasury have not only severely limited the DP’s official engagements but have also impacted negatively on his presidential campaigns.
Ruto’s spokesperson Emmanuel Tallam confirmed that his boss’s office has had its budget slashed, adding that save for the salary and official residence at Karen, Ruto and the civil servants attached to him have not been getting their allowances nor the money they require to fund their official activities.
“They stopped giving us money one and a half years ago. We do not understand why someone is denying the office of the DP money, yet the National Assembly has been approving the budget and Treasury making the allocations. The DP has been using his private means to run his political activities,” Tallam told the People Daily.
As a result of the budget cuts, the DP has had to cut down on the use of his official vehicles - even for official functions - after realising that whenever the office requests for money to fuel them and allowances for police officers and other aides, the relevant ministries turn them down, citing lack of money.
The DP’s office has in the last four years been experiencing budgetary cuts, each year.
In the 2020-2021 financial year, his office - which is housed at Harambee House Annex - had its hospitality budget reduced by Sh174 million and foreign travel by about Sh50 million.
Allocation for foreign travel dropped from Sh83 million the previous financial year to Sh33 million.
Also slashed was the budget for fuel and lubricants, which fell from Sh28 million to Sh14 million in 2020-21 financial year. Another vote -“other operating expenses” - was also reduced by Sh204 million while maintenance costs for his vehicles were whittled down to Sh11 million, half of the 2019-2020 financials’ budget.
In February this year, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani presented to Parliament a supplementary budget for basic salaries and allowances for the President and his deputy. These were reduced from Sh41.2 million which had been proposed in the Budget estimates to Sh36.4 million.
Yesterday, Yatani and Comptroller of State House Kinuthia Mbugua, engaged the People Daily team in a ping-pong game as they blamed each other for the malaise facing Ruto’s office.
“I don’t deal at that level. I only deal with accounting officers,” Yatani said. “In this case, the office of the DP is under the Comptroller of State House”.
On the other hand, however, Mbugua, through State House spokesperson Kanze Dena, referred us to the National Treasury which he said was responsible for all “financial matters in the country.”
“We only deal with issues to do with the President. Any other issue, particularly those related to finances, you have to check with the National Treasury. We don’t know how money is allocated, distributed and accounted for,” Dena said.
Since early this year, the DP has on several occasions had to pay out of pocket for operational costs, including per diem for his aides who have been accompanying him in his nationwide presidential campaigns.
Sources told People Daily that Ruto has in the past one year had to pay for accommodation, transport, food and other allowances for most of the civil servants, personal assistants, security details and other aides who accompany him on his campaigns outside Nairobi.
He also caters for his communication team, which comprises cameramen, photographers and writers, drivers and bloggers, a move that has negatively impacted on his coverage and visibility at a time when campaigns for the August 9 polls have intensified. Today, the election is 52 days away.
“Civil servants (who are attached to the DP’s office), have not been paid per diem for a year,” a highly placed source at the DP’s office told People Daily on condition of anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media on such sensitive matters. “He (the DP) is also fuelling his own cars and doesn’t use government vehicles.”
The DP’s office draws its budgetary allocation from the vote under the Presidency while ministries cater for per diems and allowances for the staff attached to the DP’s office.
Sources said ordinarily, the fuelling of his official cars and those that transport all his aides would take place at State House or at the National Oil petrol stations. This no longer happens.
In the last two months, Ruto has held over 60 political events and made 45 tours of different counties to market his presidential bid under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
During his tours, he is routinely accompanied by dozens of police officers, assistants, pressmen attached to his office and a motorcade with several drivers, all of whose expenses he has been shouldering. However, his rivals in the race have been accusing him of using government resources to campaign.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany dismissed the claims that Ruto was using funds from a government he is opposed to. According to the MP, the allegations are part of the scheme to frustrate the DP and that withholding budgeted funds was essentially aimed at curtailing his presidential campaigns.
“The reason why the DP’s office is being crippled financially is because of succession politics and malice from people who do not understand that the DP has a democratic right to chart his own political course,” Kositany said.
“People with malice have moved to intimidate and try to bring down the DP but we thank God that he is strong and has well-wishers who have supplemented him to finance his office operations, including fuelling cars. The per diem of the workers should be paid, they have earned it”.
Besides footing the bills for the expenses incurred by his office staff and aides, the DP has also been paying salaries and financing operations for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), the party on whose ticket he is vying for the presidency. Sources said he finances operations at Hustler’s Plaza located at Community Centre on Ngong Road as well as Hustler’s Centre on Makindu road.
Unlike Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Jubilee and Wiper parties which have been getting monthly contributions from their elected leaders as well as hefty allocations from the Political Parties Fund to fund their operations, UDA has not been lucky because it only has one elected MP.
From being criticised by Cabinet ministers who are technically his juniors, to changes in his security detail, Ruto recently acknowledged that he has been subjected to humiliation and embarrassment in government.
“That is an unfortunate situation. Given an opportunity, I will not allow my deputy to be humiliated the way former Vice Presidents and myself have been humiliated. I will not allow,” said Ruto although it is routine for politicians to change their mind.
But National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi says Ruto should not cry foul that his office was denied operational funds by the Treasury. Instead, he should blame himself for engaging in early campaigns.
The Suba South MP claimed that it was illegal for any presidential candidate to use taxpayer’s money to fund his campaigns.
“He should not be using taxes to fund his campaigns, unless he is using the Political Parties funds,” Mbadi said.
“He should not even use State facilities and cars, or even water paid for by the government to promote his candidature. If he wants to use public funds in his campaigns, then all presidential candidates must be allowed to use such funds for fairness”.
President Kenyatta has in the past accused Ruto of being a ghost worker, saying he was hardly ever in office to undertake his duties. The President has also expressed his displeasure with Ruto’s early campaigns.
“We have seen those who are just saying they did this and at the same time claiming that the government has done nothing. Work is not done on top of cars, it is done in offices and hospitals. The nurse does not peddle lies but goes to wards and theatres,” Uhuru said earlier this year.