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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kenya: Kibaki Rejects New State House Limos

Bernard Namunane

Nairobi — State House on Tuesday rejected eight new luxury cars, signalling the government's determination to observe austerity measures.

A statement from State House quoted President Kibaki and First Lady Lucy Kibaki saying they did not order and were not aware of the purchase of the cars that had just been delivered.

The Nation learnt that the cars -- four luxury Mercedes Benz limousines, three 4-wheel-drive Toyota Land Cruiser Prados and one Nissan Hardbody -- were bought last month.

The purchase of the vehicles appears to have been part of last month's last-minute spending by ministries and government departments to avoid returning unused funds to the Treasury.

The Presidential Press Services (PPS) said that the decision was meant to give support to measures announced by Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta to cut down government expenditure.

The minister, in his Budget speech last month, announced that Cabinet ministers will be limited to cars of not more than 1800cc. The number of cars allocated to each minister was also reduced, but some ministers have openly ridiculed the measure and announced that they would not surrender their limousines and fuel-guzzling 4x4s.

"State House will support austerity measures announced by the Minister for Finance on a freeze in the purchase of new vehicles. As an immediate measure, we are ordering the return of the eight vehicles that were purchased without our knowledge. We also appeal to all ministries to support the efforts by the Finance minister to cut down on government costs," said the President and the First Lady.

The four Mercedes Benz limousines and a Nissan Hardbody were bought from DT Dobie, while the three Prados were acquired from Toyota Kenya

"Following the instructions, the eight vehicles were this morning delivered to the dealers," PPS said.

Accounting officer

The vehicles, the Nation learnt, were delivered to State House last week.

They cost about Sh50 million, with the Mercedes S Class vehicles fetching about Sh8 million each, the Toyota Prados Sh4 million each and the Nissan Hardbody going for about Sh2 million.

On Tuesday, Roads minister Franklin Bett, who previously served as the Comptroller of retired President Daniel arap Moi, said the final authority of purchasing vehicles lay with Comptroller, who is the accounting officer at State House.

"Purchase of vehicles at State House is authorised by the Comptroller and not anyone else. I am afraid the President has got to play that role now because there is no Comptroller at State House. I would advise him to appoint one to spare himself the task of carrying out manual jobs," he said.

Mr Hyslop Ipu was transferred last year and replaced briefly as Comptroller with Prof Nick Wanjohi, who held office only for a short time before being shunted to Harambee House as the President's private secretary. The post has been vacant since then.

Sources at Treasury said the President had shown from the front and that other ministers were now expected to take the cue. Mr Kenyatta's office has written to all ministries asking to be supplied with an inventory of all vehicles under their dockets. The inventories will be analysed with a view of allocating a specific number of vehicles to ministries after the September 30 deadline.

Speaking to the Nation separately, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Bonny Khalwale and his Finance, Planning and Trade committee counterpart, Nambale MP Chris Okemo welcomed the gesture by the President and the First Lady, terming it "positive."

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