Feeding frenzy as counties spend millions on ‘hospitality.’
Otiato Guguyu, 4th Aug 2016
Do you know how much your county has been spending on tea, mandazi, samosas and hot lunches for your MCAs and governors?
Are you aware that the national and county governments have allocated huge chunks of the taxes they collect from you everyday for catering services (receptions), accommodation, gifts, food and drinks ?
Since devolution started in 2013, counties have year on year been increasing their budget allocation for these services.
In April 2013, 300 Kidney patients sued the government for contravening their constitutional right to life by failing to buy dialysis machines to meet the demand. According to WHO estimates, one in every five men and one in every four women aged between 65 and 74 years have chronic kidney disease. The Ministry of Health notes that 10,000 cases of kidney disease are diagnosed annually.
A cursory look at the tenders requesting for the supply of these goods and services indicate that there seems to be no guideline or limits as to what these services should require. Some of the counties seem frugal in their allocations while others seem quite extravagant.
For example, in 2014/15 Bungoma county had allocated Sh332 as its hospitality budget which is nearly four times the total budget of West Pokot county. Bungoma’s allocation was even more than Nairobi which allocated Sh98m for hospitality in the same year. Murang’a’s allocation of Sh4 million compares favourably to Busia county which has indicated it intends to spend Sh11 million in the 2016-2017 financial year.
A tender advertised by the Busia county for catering services laid out in detail the kind of snacks, finger food, drinks and meals the successful applicant was supposed to provide.
These included options of tea, coffee, Chocolate, snacks/fingerfoods such as sandwiches (4-6)per person, a mandazi, a samosa (a choice of vegetable/meat) and a kebab during the two coffee breaks’ MCAs have everyday the assembly is in session. They are also served cakes, cookies, fruits and a choice of sparkling or still water
During the one-and-a-half lunch break, MCAs can partake their choice of a three-course international menu. This ranges from a hot dish (soup) three options of a meat, fish or vegetarian meal; a mix of salads, a choice of dessert fruits, cakes or biscuits and can wash it all down with either juice, sparkling or still water,coffee, tea (choice of black or green) or hot chocolate.
The hospitality budgets have been growing year on year at the demand of the MCAs. Kisumu estimates it will spend Sh10 million this financial, with the cost going up to Sh11 million in 2017/18.
Recently, the Homa Bay County MCAs boycotted light refreshments, sodas and mandazi they were offered after passing the budget last month. They demanded that the county pay for a lavish lunch at Cold Springs’ Hotel, a boutique hotel situated on the shores of Lake Victoria or give them the equivalent in cash.
The ward representatives sought to know whether they were kindergarten kids or high school students to be offered sodas and mandazi after such an important exercise.
The county spending on hospitality, catering, gifts, food and drinks seems to be taking a cue from the executive. At the beginning of his presidency in 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta captured the headlines when it was reported that his office had flown an eye-watering Sh7 million ($80,000) worth of lamb chops, beef steak, fish and his favourite drink – Fanta Orange— on his first official trip to China.
The presidency’s catering and entertainment budget has been revised upwards since then and currently stands at more than Sh1bn.
According to the Controller of Budget (CoB) report for the third quarter 2015/2016 financial year shows that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) cumulatively spent Sh11.1 billion on travel and hospitality, up from Sh8.4 billion in a similar period the previous year. Hospitality spending rose to Sh3.1 billion from Sh2.1 billion the previous year. It is most likely going to exceed the allocation due to the high level state visitors and international conferences hosted by the government.
What can Sh3.1 billion can buy?
WHO recommended standard is 1 doctor per every 1,000 people. Kenya has a shortage of 83,000 doctors, according to the secretary-general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Ouma Oluga.
Sh3.1bn = training 780 doctors
There are 103.4 nurses for every 100,000 people compared to the WHO recommendation of 250 health workers per 100,000 people.
Sh3.1bn = training 1450 nurses/midwives.