Treasury CS raids Judiciary coffers to fund presidential poll

The Judiciary and a number of independent offices and constitutional commissions are among those that have been hit hard in the proposed budget cut as the government seeks to raise money for the fresh presidential election and enhanced free day secondary education.

The budget cuts are contained in the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich’s Supplementary Estimates No. 1 for the financial year 2017/18 which have been formally submitted to Parliament.

Judiciary will lose Sh1.95 billion meant for the dispensation of justice, representing 11.1 per cent decrease from the 2017/18 printed estimates which was Sh17.561 billion.

Of the Sh1.95 billion, some Sh1.07 billion has been taken from the gross current estimates while the development spending has lost Sh879.9 million.

BUDGET CUTS

On the other hand, the Judicial Service Commission’s budget has been cut by 62.6 per cent from the current spending of Sh490.2 million to Sh183.5 million for the current financial year.

The cuts on the justice department’s allocations could raise eyebrows, coming as they do hot on the heels of the Executive’s loudly expressed unhappiness with the Supreme Court’s nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.

After the Supreme Court judgment, the Jubilee brigade, led by President Kenyatta, has been on a war path with the Judiciary. The President called the four judges – Chief Justice David Maraga, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Justice Smokin Wanjala and Justice Isaac Lenaola — who nullified his re-election ‘wakora’ (frauds) and vowed to fix them.

Since the delivery of the judgment, four petitions seeking the removal from office of CJ Maraga, DCJ Mwilu, Justice Lenaola and Supreme Court Registrar Esther Nyaiyaki, have been filed.

SUSTAINED CAMPAIGNS

Besides the petitions, there has been a sustained campaign on social media under the hashtag #WakoraNetwork as Jubilee loyalists have singled out the four Supreme Court judges and Ms Nyaiyaki for besmirching.

During the collapsed talks called by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with Jubilee and National Super Alliance (Nasa), the ruling coalition demanded among other things a review of the JSC Act to restructure the commission which is the administrative arm of the Judiciary.

The demand mainly aims at changing the manner the members of JSC are appointed and the powers they can exercise.

The government has, however, rebutted accusations of any foul play in the cuts, justifying them as “budget rationalisation” mainly to finance the fresh presidential election slated for October 26 and enhancement of free day secondary education programme. The latter, a key Jubilee campaign promise, is set to start in January.

SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES

In the memorandum on the supplementary estimates, Mr Rotich says the government has been hit by various challenges “with huge financial implications”.

“These include but not limited to prolonged drought, insecurity, implementation of agreed CBAs, a repeat of the presidential election and shortfalls in revenue collection occasioned by prevailing business environment,” he says.

As a result of the challenges, the CS proposes to “re-organise the planned expenditures for the FY2017/18 in line with Article 223 of the Constitution and Section 44 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.”

Apart from the Judiciary, a number of other independent offices and constitutional commissions have also lost substantial chunks of their budget allocations in the supplementary estimates.

COMMISSION CUTS

Mr Keriako Tobiko’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) will have its allocation slashed by 16.5 per cent or Sh385.6 million.

The cuts mainly affect ODPP’s recurrent and development spending on public prosecution services. Prior to the changes, Mr Tobiko’s office had been allocated Sh2.3 billion.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has had its allocation reduced by Sh60.6 million from Sh450.4 million representing a 13.5 per cent cut. The slashed portion was mainly for the protection and promotion of human rights.

The National Land Commission (NLC) has been set back by Sh658.3 million or 37.6 per cent of the original allocation of Sh1.752 billion. The programmes affected by the cut are land administration and management (Sh180.4 million), general administration, planning and support services (Sh71.5 million), land disputes and conflict resolutions (Sh74.1 million), and national land information management system (Sh332.3 million).

AUDITOR-GENERAL

Meanwhile, Auditor General Edward Ouko whom the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale said the Jubilee would go after once the current Parliament gets down to business has had his office’s budget slashed by about Sh550 million, or 13 per cent, in the supplementary estimates.

Days after the IEBC declared the results of the August 8 elections, Mr Duale said Mr Ouko and the NLC chairman Mohamed Swazuri would be ejected from office, “courtesy of our superior numbers”.

The Jubilee Party has been uncomfortable with Mr Ouko over his audit reports that often gives fodder to the opposition to criticise the government for loss of public funds.

Several attempts have been made to oust Mr Ouko from office. For instance, in February 2017, Mr Tobiko cleared the Auditor General of graft allegations.

Before he cleared Mr Ouko, the DPP had spoken of “sinister and mischievous” attempts to coerce him to charge the auditor general over alleged Sh100 million worth of procurement irregularities. Similarly, a petition which had been filed in the National Assembly against Mr Ouko has also been blocked.

BUDGET REVISIONS

In the budget revisions, Mr Rotich has specifically gone for Mr Ouko’s budget for audit services from where he has slashed the Sh550 million.

Along with Mr Ouko, the Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo has also had Sh80.1 million, representing 10 per cent, slashed from her allocation for control and management of public finances which is one of the core functions of her office.

Another independent body which has had its budget slashed is the National Police Service Commission where Mr Rotich intends to take away Sh83.6 million or 15.2 per cent of its allocation for national police service human resource management.

Also to be squeezed are the Commission on Administrative of Justice (Ombudsman) which will lose Sh59.7 million or 12.5 per cent meant for promotion of administrative justice and National Gender and Equality Commission whose budget for promotion of gender equality and freedom from discrimination has been cut by Sh93 million or 20.5 per cent.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority’s budget for policing oversight services has also been cut by Sh54.1 million or 7.1 per cent.

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