, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 10 – Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa has taken issue with Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to ban all government vehicles with an engine capacity of over 1800cc and instead is demanding for a four wheel drive vehicle.
Dr Wekesa on Tuesday argued that his job description did not allow him to take up the recommended VW Passat as its engine capacity was too small.
“I am the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife. Half of my time is in the office and the other half is spent in the forests or in the national parks. Do you expect me to go to these areas in a Passat? The answer is No. A Passat is a good car in Nairobi and for going to Kitale should I feel like going there but not for going to forests,” he stated.
He held that Mr Kenyatta should excuse him from the directive explaining that the order to have all ministers and their assistants take up the VW Passats (regardless of their job description) was not practical.
“The Minister for Finance will have to accommodate me as a Minister for Forestry kwa sababu mimi ni mtu wa misitu (because I am in charge of the forests). I cannot use that small car and you know that. So why do we always pretend? Why should I lie? I need a four wheel drive to go to those areas and the Minister will have to find me one,” he explained amidst laughter.
Dr Wekesa also questioned the role played by the media saying the Fourth Estate only focused on less important issues.
“Why do the press like the issues of Passats and Ocampo so much? Why can’t you ask me about the Mau?” he quipped.
He further denied having refused to comply with the directive saying that he had already replaced his Mercedes Benz with the proposed Passat.
Dr Wekesa was last week on Tuesday quoted as saying that his Mercedes Benz did not fall under the category specified by the Finance Minister. He said his vehicle was 1790 cc and was therefore not in the 1800 cc class. He has since returned the vehicle.
“This car’s engine falls below the specified cubic capacity,” he said.
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. The Finance Minister issued the order during the reading of the year 2009/10 financial budget stating that the Mercedes Benz that were in use were expensive for the tax payer. The move was a bid to cut down on government expenditure and prevent an increase in tax for Kenyans.
It is still not clear what action the government will take against those who have since failed to abide by the instruction. Each Ministry has been allocated at least three Passats.