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Kenya Cabinet goes Passat

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 29 – The government has said its plan to withdraw luxury cars with engine capacities beyond 1800cc that are in use by Cabinet Ministers, their assistants and other top senior civil servants is on course.

Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said he was confident that all senior government officials would comply with the directive that seeks to save taxpayers Sh2 billion on fuelling and maintenance of expensive models.

"You cannot say they have not complied as they still have two more days.  We expect everyone to comply as per the directive given by the government," Mr Kenyatta said.

He also revealed there could be a delay in the process owing to a number of Ministers and Permanent Secretaries currently out of the country on official duty, but did not mention whether the deadline would be extended.

"I don’t think we are going to have problems here as I can’t see any efforts to derail the programme," he said.

At the same time, Mr Kenyatta defended the move to purchase all the new vehicles from one source, Cooper Motor Corporation (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.

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At least 35 Cabinet Ministers had not adhered to the directive by Wednesday.

Only five cabinet ministers and two assistant ministers headed the directive as a deadline to surrender the vehicles lapsed.

The Ministries of Northern Kenya development, Transport, Labour, Cooperative, Finance and Justice and Constitutional Affairs were said to have returned their fuel guzzlers vehicles by 5pm on Wednesday.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo urged his colleagues to comply with the directive.

"My Permanent Secretary (PS) this morning asked me to surrender the car I have been using.  I have surrendered it and so I don’t know how I am going home, I hope the Passat (the preferred 1790cc model) is around… I have no problem, I am committed to the measures announced," he said.

When asked if he had returned his Mercedes Bens, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said: "That is neither here nor there."  Journalists later noticed his fuel guzzler revving up to ferry him to the airport for a trip to West Africa on Wednesday morning.

Motoring consultant Hanningtone Gaya criticised the government’s decision to purchase Volkswagen Passat vehicles as a replacement for higher engine capacity cars.

He said the government did not consider the cost implications of maintaining the Passats, saying they were too expensive to repair and service, compared to the other cars that are in use.

"It is not just the cost of the vehicles, what of maintenance? What of the cost when officials are going all over the country? Delay and road safety, that will drain our exchequer," he said.

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He said in the long run, the government will not have saved what it intended to achieve by doing away with fuel guzzlers.

Mr Gaya further said the Finance Minister should have focused on the engine sizes and not restrictions on the type of cars that the government should be using.

In his budget in June, Mr Kenyatta said it was one of the measures the government had considered as a way of cutting down on government expenditure.

Some Ministers and their Assistants however argued it was not possible for them to carry out their work especially in rural areas without the 3000cc engine capacity cars.

Most of the Kenyan public expressed satisfaction with Finance Minister’s directive and only hoped all Ministries would comply.

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.

The Government Transport Chief Mechanical Officer said a total of 51 Passats were picked by ministries at the CMC showroom on Wednesday.

Each Ministry has been allocated at-least three Passats.

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