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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Most Dramatic, Unique Budget Reading Sessions in Kenya

  • Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani, on Thursday, April 7, broke protocol and presented the 2022/23 budget estimates two months ahead of the normal schedule. 

    The budget was presented in advance to allow the government enough time to prepare for August 9 General Election. This has always been the case in every elections year.

    Budget reading is a mark of tradition that was passed from the British government. In the course of history, various intrigues have surrounded the budget reading process, leading to scenarios that have made headlines. 

    kenyagist.com takes a look at five of these scenarios:

    Treasury CS Ukur Yattani (with briefcase) poses for a photo with his docket’s officials before reading the Budget 2020/21 in Parliament on Thursday, June 11, 2020

    Mudavadi’s Incident in 1997

    Past Ministers of Finance have been accorded heavy security detail on the budget reading day. As witnessed in past budget readings, a huge contingent of police officers surround the Treasury CS as he carries the briefcase containing the budget statement to Parliament building. 

    The tradition dates back to 1997 when the culture was introduced and upheld to date. Then Finance Minister, Musalia Mudavadi, was set to read the budget but came under fire from the opposition led by the late Kijana Wamalwa, James Orengo, Martin Shikuku and Mwai Kibaki. 

    The opposition side caused disruptions and lead chants as Mudavadi began reading the budget. At one point, the Sergeant at Arms had to call for reinforcement in order to protect the mace.

    The situation was, however, quelled. The incident led to enhancement of security during the budget presentation days as well as copies of the budget estimates being created in advance.

    Uhuru’s ban on guzzlers

    President Uhuru Kenyatta, when serving as the Minister for Finance in 2009, became the talk of town after he walked to Parliament building from his office instead of using vehicles assigned to him by the government. 

    While reading the budget, he directed all Cabinet Ministers and other government officials to use vehicles whose engine capacity does not exceed 1800cc.

    Uhuru also temporarily prohibited the purchase of new vehicles unless under unavoidable circumstances. He added that the move was aimed at reducing the amount of money the government spent on fuel.

    His directives, however, were just a monologue as no Cabinet Minister or government official followed them. 

    One for the road

    James Gichuru is remembered as Kenya’s first Minister for Finance, and a trailblazer who made a mark in the country’s politics. Many are familiar with James Gichuru Road, which was named in his honour. 

    However, Gichuru was an alcoholic, something that saw him bundled out of the Finance docket.  In 1969, Gichuru stumbled in front of founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and other diplomats.

    The former Minister was unable to finish reading the budget and called for ‘half-time’ in order to take a drink. His peers described him as politician who had good common sense but lacked focus.

    His drinking problem escalated to a point where government documents would be found at a local bar located along River Road in Nairobi. 

    Postponing the budget reading

    In 1983, a historic first was witnessed when then Finance Minister, Arthur Kinyanjui Magugu, postponed the budget reading process by a week. At the time, then President Daniel Moi had dissolved Parliament leading to an impromptu election. This led to a debate as the late Charles Njonjo was accused of colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the Moi administration. 

    While in his office, Magugu explained to journalists that the delay was inconsequential as opposed to the battle for political survival that every minister faced. 

    Nyachae admitting economy was in ICU just before reading the budget 

    In 1998, then Finance Minister, Simeon Nyachae, became the subject of conversation after he made a rare admission that the country’s economy was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), urging that it needed to be fixed urgently.

    In his speech, Nyachae advocated for the government to seal the corruption loopholes as it was impossible to impose new taxes on Kenyans, who he claimed, had already been overtaxed.

    The sentiments were, however, not taken lightly by then President Moi who moved to sack him a few months later. This led to Moi’s famous quote on the issue, stating “If your mother is dancing naked in the kitchen, you don’t tell the world.”

    President Daniel Moi waving at onlookers while riding the presidential limousine at a past tour.
    President Daniel Moi waving at onlookers while riding the presidential limousine at a past tour.
    alcohol fire corruption drunk fight

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