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Fact-checked: Kenyatta’s 2017 State of the Nation Address

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Fact-checked: Kenyatta’s 2017 State of the Nation Address

20th March 2017

By: Africa Check


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Up for re-election in August, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta gave a sometimes impassioned defence of his record, pegging it against his 2013 manifesto. Africa Check is working through his claims to sort fact from fiction. This report will be updated as new claims are completed.



Claim: “Our ratio of police to the population is 1 officer for 380 citizens, better than the prescribed UN ratio of 1 officer for every 450 citizens.”

Verdict: incorrect


The police to population ratio indicates the number of police officers serving a community, relative to its size. For example, if a community has 1 police officer serving 100 people, the ratio is 1:100.

In its pre-election manifesto launched in February 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling party pledged to “increase the police-citizen ratio from 1:1,150 to a ratio of 1:800 citizens within five years…”.

(Note: The actual ratio continues to vary – for example on March 3 Kenyatta said the ratio in 2013 “was 1 policeman to 1,000 civilians”.)

In a January 2017 speech, Kenyatta said that “we now have 98,732 officers in our ranks compared to 78,885 in 2013, an increase of more than 25%”. In its 2013-2018 strategic plan, the National Police Service showed that 75,325 people (not 78,885) served in its three branches in 2013.

Africa Check contacted inspector-general Joseph Boinnet to clarify these numbers, but he is yet to provide the data, despite promising to do so.

In March 2017, some 5,916 officers graduated. Using the president’s numbers, this would bring the total number of police officers to 104, 648. In its most recent estimate, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics placed Kenya’s population at 44.2 million in 2015.

Using these numbers, the ratio works out to a policeman for every 422 Kenyans. For the ratio to be 1:380,  Kenya’s current population would have to be to 39.8 million, or police numbers would need to increase to 116, 315.

Senior researcher for Amnesty International, Abdullahi Boru, reckons that the president was using Kenya’s 2009 population estimate of 38.6 million people to work out the ratio, despite there being newer estimates of the population.

A second issue with the ratio is that the UN defines police personnel as “those whose principal functions are the prevention, detection and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders”.

The UN (which gets its data from the official data agency) therefore only includes the number of Kenya Police members, who are often referred to as the regular police, in its database.

If we use the number of regular police members at last count by the National Police Service Commission (44,705), the ratio works out to 1 police officer for every 989 Kenyans. If we add the new recruits the ratio falls to 1:872.

Africa Check was unable to find proof that the UN has ever recommended a ratio of 1:450. It seems to date back to the United States’ policing of occupied Germany in 1945 when one American policeman oversaw 450 German civilians. Available literature shows that its success at the time has tended to inform international policing.

Analysts we spoke to said the focus should be on the quality of policing, not absolute numbers.

Claim: “My administration has gone over and beyond the Constitutional requirement by increasing the percentage of shareable revenues from 15% to 34%.”

Verdict: correct

In 2010, a new constitution provided for the creation of 47 county governments. The sharing of revenue between them has generated considerable political debate including calls for a referendum to increase the share to the counties.

The law provides for equitable sharing of money with the counties of “not less that 15%” of all revenue collected by the national government.  This amount is calculated using “the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly.”

The Commission on Revenue Allocation is tasked with this,  according to Jason Lakin, a research fellow at the International Budget Partnership. The agency’s proposals are then submitted to parliament, which enacts a law  outlining what both the national government and counties are due.

The commission’s data shows that county governments got KSh190 billion in the financial year 2013/14 and KSh226.66 billion in the financial year 2014/15. The most recent audited accounts were those of 2010/11, which showed the government had collected KSh608 billion.

But because these had not been approved by the National Assembly as the chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee Mutava Musyimi told the House then, 2009/10 revenues were used.

Based on this data, the revenue was KSh529.3 billion, meaning the allocations worked out to 28% of the “most recent audited accounts of revenue” that had been approved. 

The same base year was used for the  2014/15 allocation, with KSh226.66 billion going to the counties. This was 43% of the most recent audited and approved accounts of revenue.

For financial year 2015/16, revenue data from 2012/13 was used, which showed KSh776.9 billion had been collected by the national government. The allocation to counties was KSh 259.8 billion, or 33%.

Lawmakers further approved audited accounts for the financial year 2013/14, raising the base revenue to KSh935.5 billion. The counties got KSh302 billion, or 32.3% for financial year 2016/17. (Note:  Treasury recorded KSh304.2 billion, or 33% of audited revenue)

Over the four years, allocation to counties works out to an average 34% of the most recent audited accounts of revenues – above the constitutional threshold of “not less than 15%”.

Claim: “Our gross domestic product has expanded at strong average annual growth rate of 5.9 percent since 2013 …”
Verdict: unproven

In its most recent quarterly report, the National Treasury says that Kenya’s economy grew by 5.7 % in 2013, fell to 5.3 % in 2014 and recovered to 5.6 % in 2015.

These figures are mirrored in the Economic Survey 2016 produced by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the government’s official data agency.

For 2016, Treasury records average growth across the first, second and third quarters of 2016 at 5.9 %, 6.2% and 5.7% respectively.

For the economy to have expanded at an average of 5.9% since 2013, it would have needed to grow by 7% in 2016 or 10.2% in the last quarter of 2016 alone.

The World Bank, in its October 2016 Kenya Economic Update forecast full 2016 growth of 5.9% .

The Parliamentary Budget Office—the non-partisan office that advises parliament on the budget and the economy— in a forecast released in March 2017 has predicted that the economy in 2016 would grow by 5.8%, with a slower Q4 growth of 5.4%. This, it says, is due to reduced rainfall, slower manufacturing output and the effects of an interest rate cap, which the president admitted was hurting lending.

We have asked the presidency for the source of the president’s economic numbers and will update this report with their response.

In the absence of full 2016 data however, we find this claim unproven because evidence publicly available at this time neither proves nor disproves the statement.

Despite this brisk growth, there has been concern that many Kenyans are not benefiting, sentiments that Kenyatta also acknowledged.

Kwame Owino is the chief executive officer of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank in Kenya. He said that despite the country’s growth being above the regional average, it was not being felt in the country because the bulk of it was in big-money investment into a KSh447 billion standard-gauge railway project.

Funded by a loan from China and with the main contractor being a Chinese firm, it is planned to connect the coastal city of Mombasa with the western Kenya border town of Malaba and is the current administration’s flagship project.

“Most of what we are calling growth is driven by the standard-gauge railway. Most of the money is going back to China, and only a small share has percolated, so to speak, into the local economy, and even that is not distributed evenly,” Owino told Africa Check.

Public wage bill

Claim: “In simple terms, 50% of all the money collected as revenues in Kenya goes into the pockets of less than 2% of the country’s total population.”

Verdict: correct

The most recent estimate of Kenya’s population is 44.2 million, contained in the 2015 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Using this data, the country would need to have not more than 884,000 people on its public payroll. In his speech, Kenyatta said 700,000 public officers were being paid KSh627 billion, an amount he termed “staggering”.

A recent audit commissioned by Kenya’s parliament and overseen by the auditor-general found that there were 700,700 public sector workers in 2013.  The bureau’s Economic Survey captured 718,400 workers as contracted in 2015.

Was their pay, which is both salaries and allowances, more than half the government’s revenue? The Kenya Revenue Authority is the principal tax collector of revenue in the country. The commissioner general of the authority put tax collected in the financial year 2015/16 at KSh1.2 trillion.

This figure is also backed up by the Treasury’s Budget Review and Outlook Paper for 2016 which records that total tax revenue including Appropriations-in-Aid (budget jargon for monies that a department can retain, such as fees and levies) amounted to KSh1.237 trillion.

The numbers thus appear to support the president’s claim.

Senior University of Nairobi lecturer Gerrishon Ikiara says the issue is clearly a major public concern as a higher wage bill means the country has less money to use on development.

“Controlling it is not easy due to a liberal constitution that has spurred strikes and also partisan interests,” Ikiara, who focuses on economics and development studies, told Africa Check.

“An economical way of dealing with issues such as overrepresentation may be by tabling them at [upcoming elections], but also by picking leaders who see the bigger picture.”

Researched by Lee Mwiti and Alphonce Shiundu, Africa Check


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