The “Sh800-billion minister with few answers”: That is how Kenyan daily the Standard recently described transport and infrastructure minister James Macharia.
Macharia oversaw the five “most lucrative” dockets in government, the paper said in its 23 October 2019 online edition.
“Since 2015, he has been allocated on average 47% of the national development budget,” the newspaper claimed.
We ran the numbers.
Numbers ‘from budget reports’
When contacted by Africa Check, the article’s author said that the 47% share related to “spending” and “not budget allocations”.
He said the data for the statistic came from office of the controller of budget reports and budget estimates. This independent office oversees the implementation of national and county government budgets in Kenya.
Five departments in one ministry
Macharia was transferred to the transport and infrastructure ministry on 24 November 2015, moving from the health docket. When he took office, the ministry was composed of two departments: transport and infrastructure.
In May 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta through executive orders added three more: the departments of public works; housing and urban development; and shipping and maritime affairs.
The national treasury allocates budgetary funds to the departments in ministries based on existing executive orders.
Controller of budget has final figures
Budget allocations to ministries are in the Appropriations Act, which is used by parliament to guide public spending. But these can be altered during a financial year. This is what John Kinuthia, lead research analyst at the Kenya office of the budget thinktank International Budget Partnership (IBP-Kenya) told Africa Check.
“Sometimes changes happen due to poor budget implementation. So the national treasury may decide to move the money to more ‘productive’ areas of the budget before the year ends,” said Kinuthia.
The controller of budget has the final figures, including on allocations and expenditure.
Over three financial years, between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2018, the ministry’s development allocation was KSh814.9-billion. This was 38% – not 47% as claimed by the Standard – of the total development budget of KSh2.1-trillion.
Development allocations to the ministry of transport, infrastructure, housing and urban development (KSh billions)
Source: Controller of Budget
Other scenarios still lower than Standard’s figure
You might consider that cabinet secretary Macharia was only appointed at least five months after the 2015/16 allocations. In the 2016/17 financial year, when he was fully in charge, the ministry’s share of the total was 39% – still lower than 47%.
If you check expenditure as per the paper’s clarification, the share is still lower than 47%. Of the KSh1.5-trillion spent on national development between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2018, some KSh600-billion – or 41% – was by Macharia’s ministry. (Note: See Africa Check’s calculations here.)
Allocations ‘are policy decisions’
While the allocations to the ministry appear “skewed”, this was a policy decision and not a legal requirement, Kwame Owino, chief executive of the Institute of Economic Affairs Kenya, told Africa Check.
The significant spending in Macharia’s ministry can be explained by the Kenyatta administration’s “infrastructure spending binge”, Owino said. These include billion-shilling spending on road and rail projects.
Conclusion: Evidence does not show ‘super’ minister allocated 47% share of Kenya development budget
A national Kenyan daily recently claimed that since 2015, the transport and infrastructure ministry under James Macharia has been allocated the lion’s share of the country’s development funds.
The Standard gave this share as 47%. But none of the evidence offered in support of this shows this. According to official numbers, the ministry has since the 2015/16 financial year been allocated 38% of the development budget. If only expenditure is considered, the ministry’s share is 41%.
We therefore rate the 47% claim as incorrect.
Researched by Alphonce Shiundu, Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website