The recent audit report by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu has brought to light concerning patterns of expenditure, particularly regarding the allocation of millions of shillings for fueling MPs’ private vehicles without adequate evidence of travel. This revelation underscores growing concerns that the mileage allowance has evolved into a lucrative source of income for lawmakers, fueling public outcry and calls for transparency and accountability.

Gathungu’s audit report for the 2022-23 financial year highlights significant gaps in the oversight and control mechanisms governing the payment of fuel money to MPs. The lack of robust controls has left the system vulnerable to potential abuse, with little assurance that taxpayer funds are being utilized for legitimate purposes.

The National Assembly reportedly expended Sh4.6 billion on domestic travel and subsistence, with an additional Sh1.2 billion allocated by the Senate. Considering the size of the legislative bodies – 349 members in the National Assembly and 67 in the Senate – the cumulative expenditure amounted to a staggering Sh5.8 billion for travel and subsistence allowances.

A significant portion of this budget is attributed to MPs’ mileage claims for trips purportedly made to their constituencies. However, Gathungu highlights instances where payments were made without verifiable proof of travel, raising concerns about the authenticity of these claims.

The audit report reveals that MPs are presumed to travel to their constituencies every weekend, although this assumption is not always substantiated. Some lawmakers reportedly spend extended periods in Nairobi, while others submit claims for local mileage despite being out of the country. Moreover, there are cases of MPs claiming mileage allowances on a weekly basis, regardless of parliamentary sessions or recess periods.

The lack of transparency surrounding MPs’ mileage claims further exacerbates the issue, as the Parliamentary Service Commission – the MPs’ employer – does not disclose details of individual claims to the public. This opacity has fueled speculation that some lawmakers receive exorbitant allowances, with little accountability for their expenditure.

Under the current system, MPs are entitled to claim reimbursable mileage for one return journey per week between Nairobi and their respective constituencies, at a rate of Sh152.6 per kilometer. However, there have been reports of MPs submitting fictitious mileage claims, inflating their allowances without legitimate justification.

Despite previous calls for reforms to address these concerns, little progress has been made in curbing misuse of taxpayer funds. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), tasked with reviewing state officers’ pay, has attempted to intervene, yet Kenya’s legislators continue to enjoy disproportionately high salaries and allowances compared to their global counterparts.

In light of the auditor general’s findings, there are renewed calls for accountability measures to be implemented, including stringent verification processes and increased transparency in reporting MPs’ expenditure. As taxpayers demand greater accountability, the spotlight remains on Kenya’s legislative bodies to uphold integrity and fiscal responsibility in their use of public funds.

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