Kenyan ministers hang onto limos

October 30, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 30 – Majority of Cabinet Ministers, their Assistants and Permanent Secretaries on Friday still clung to their fuel guzzlers and refused to pick VW Passat replacements.

Only 17 Cabinet Ministers and 19 Assistant Ministers had returned the high capacity vehicles by the deadline.  The Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura is among 11 Permanent Secretaries and accounting officers who beat the deadline and returned their vehicles.  Kenya has 41 Cabinet Ministers and 52 Assistant Ministers.

Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta issued the directive to buy less expensive vehicles as austerity measures to cut down on government expenses in his June Budget.

Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Environment Minister John Michuki, Gender Minister Esther Murugi and Housing Minister Soita Shitanda, were among those who had returned their vehicles.

On Thursday the Ministries of Northern Kenya Development, Transport, Labour, Cooperative, Finance and Justice and Constitutional Affairs, were said to have returned their high-end vehicles.

Only a few Ministers allied to Orange Democratic Movement complied with Mr Kenyatta’s directive. Others, including Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang questioned the rationale behind the purchase of the smaller engine cars and read a sinister motive in it.

“It is not because we are saving money, it is because somebody is making money, not the government I serve.  If they want to seize them, let them come and seize them, I will not resist.  I will let them bring their Passat, but I am not surrendering it (Mercedes), because the reason for surrendering is a false reason,” he said.

In total, only 65 heavy engine vehicles were surrendered by the Friday deadline.

Following the deal between Cooper Motor Corporation (the company supplying the new vehicles) and the government, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on Thursday said it would establish if the tendering process was above board.

The Finance Minister defended the move to purchase the new vehicles from CMC, arguing the government needed to get an immediate cut off point and any other system would have taken time to implement.

"The government has a clear policy on how it purchases its vehicles and I am confident all rules were adhered to," he said and invited all those with queries to check up with Treasury about how the procurement process was conducted.

The directive to surrender all cars exceeding 1800cc applies to all government officials.  Only the President, Prime Minister and Vice President are exempt from the directive.

Some ministers and their assistants however argued it was not possible for them to work in rural areas without the 3000cc engine capacity cars.

The government has yet to decided what action will take against those clinging to the expensive cars.

One hundred and twenty Volkswagen Passat cars have been imported to be used by top government officials in a bid to save taxpayers about Sh2 billion being spent on fuelling and maintenance of expensive models.

Each Ministry has been allocated at least three Passats.


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