African Press International (API)

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Selfish Kenyan Ministers defy Finance Minister Uhuru’s directive on small cars – They want to be placed higher than the voters

Posted by African Press International on June 13, 2009

minister shitanda

Housing minister Soita Shitanda and his official car when he commissioned the Madaraka Infill Housing Project on Friday. Mr Shitanda said he cannot drive into a function in small car similar to ones driven by teenagers. Photo/ETERSON GITHAIGA

ByLUCAS BARASA and KIBIWOTT KOROSS

In Summary

  • Leaders argue it is not practical to use smaller vehicles as most roads are poor

Cabinet ministers on Friday opposed a government directive to stop using vehicles with engine capacities of more than 1.8 litres.

The ministers and other top government officials continued using stylish fuel-guzzling vehicles, just a day after Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta issued the instruction to help cut government spending.

Presenting his maiden national budget speech on Thursday, Mr Kenyatta sought to confine ministers and senior civil servants to one vehicle each, with an engine capacity not exceeding 1800cc.

If effected, the move would have seen the top of the range vehicles being used by the officials returned to the Treasury for auction to the public.

But on Friday, the ministers and government officials stayed put, attending functions in posh cars, with some categorically vowing not to surrender the cars.

Gender minister Esther Murugi said: I am not going to comply.

Ms Murugi questioned how Mr Kenyatta expected ministers to visit various parts of the country with 1800cc vehicles yet most roads were impassable.

I have one vehicle, which is fine. However, it has to be motorable. In my ministry, we have one vehicle each (her and assistant minister …), she said.

The Nyeri Town MP said the Mercedez Benz 200 she was using was only allocated to her less than two months ago and questioned why she should surrender it that soon.

Although she welcomed the introduction of fuel cards to help cut costs, Ms Murugi termed the limiting of size of cars to be used by government officials as tricky.

She said other methods such as a stop to buying of new furniture and cutting on use of phones should be used to reduce spending.

The use of 1.8litre engine vehicles, she said, could only result in more breakages due to bad roads and thus escalate maintenance costs.

Fisheries minister Paul Otuoma said he will not surrender the 3000cc diesel car he was using as it was cheaper in terms of fuel than a 1.8litre engine petrol car.

I have always been compliant. I use a three-litre petrol car and only have one, Dr Otuoma said, adding that his assistant had no vehicle after the one he was using was involved in an accident in April.

He normally uses mine when I am not travelling, he said. His ministry, he said, had little resources and that it would even require more vehicles to properly carry out fish farming in 140 constituencies countrywide as outlined in the budget.

Clarification

He proposed that some of the vehicles that will be surrendered by government officials be given to his ministry.

Dr Otuoma added that not all high capacity vehicles consumed much fuel due to advanced technology.

We need further clarification as some vehicles capacity might be low but consume a lot of fuel. Theres also no 1.8litre diesel car, he said.

Roads minister Franklin Bett said it would not be possible for him to inspect roads in places like Marakwet and West Pokot districts with low vehicles.

I dont mind about the engine size as long as the vehicle is high, he said.

He said he could not access some areas to open new roads with a low Mercedez Benz car, adding that ministers also needed powerful vehicles while driving in a presidential convoy.

He called for further consultations in order to come up with a reasonable, fair and viable solution before the measures on government vehicles are implemented.

He expressed concern that some ministers might be forced to use their own vehicles and then seek compensation from government.

The Bureti MP questioned what will happen to ministers with several chase cars if Mr Kenyattas proposals were implemented.

Environment minister John Michuki, Internal Securitys George Saitoti and Agricultures William Ruto are among officials with several chase cars and bodyguards.

Match their status

Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo said he unreservedly supports Mr Kenyattas proposals. He said he had instructed his ministry to buy him a new car to comply with the measures.

The minister currently uses a 3000cc diesel Prado, formerly used by his predecessor Martha Karua.

The change is not going to affect my lifestyle, he said.

But Housing minister Soita Shitanda said ministers should be given an opportunity to mortgage the high-powered vehicles instead of being withdrawn.

He said the ministers deserved the vehicles in order to match their status, adding that he could not drive into a function with a small car, which, according to him, belonged to teenagers.

This is not going to be practical, he said. We cannot drive in the same cars as teenagers. The minister must have been duped by his advisers.

Mr Shitanda was speaking after the launch of a housing project in Nairobis Madaraka Estate.

source.nation.ke

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