What is 1.66 Billion?

Brenda Wambui
1 March ,2016

It has emerged that the amount of money lost in the NYS scandal (according to a report seen by The Nation) could be as much as KES 1.66 billion, up from the previously reported KES 791 million. The extra amount, as much as KES 869,000,000, is thought to have been paid to an additional 15 companies, and is currently under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), though we all know how that will probably go.

According to an affidavit sworn by one of the accused, Ms. Josephine Kabura, the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit (BFIU) of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the EACC, two of the bodies charged with investigating this theft, took part in committing the crimes and/or covering them up. Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has now been drafted into the government created taskforce to investigate the matter (taking over from the DCI and EACC), and claims that the amounts owed by companies mentioned in the NYS theft for income tax and value added tax chargeable on payments are KES 352 million and KES 850.4 million respectively.

It may be hard to visualize what the amounts that are constantly being mentioned in the media as having been stolen from Kenyans by their public officials can do. Perhaps this is why we haven’t seen more sustained public action regarding these thefts: either we are fatigued by the cycle of corruption in Kenya, or do not really understand how much of our livelihood is being taken from us by people we elect, and the people they appoint to serve us. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is also currently investigating or prosecuting 88 high profile cases that involve theft of public property in one form or another.

To illustrate the impact of this theft, I will show what KES 1.6 billion (since this is the scandal that will define Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term as president) can do for this country based on a manifesto presented to us by the Jubilee coalition when they went around the country asking for our votes. We will see how many of their flagship projects could have been achieved already with prudent management of our money.

One of the goals the Jubilee coalition had was to resettle the remaining internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from post-election violence, the Mau Forest eviction, among other Kenyan tragedies. KES 1 billion was released to go towards resettling the last 5,261 households still in the camps, after which the camps are to be closed. The money stolen from us in the NYS scandal would comfortably have paid for this, and left KES 660 million in spare change.

To improve our security, the Jubilee coalition set as one of its goals the improvement of police pay and conditions of service. This would improve the service they give, and perhaps reduce the brutality occasioned on Kenyans by unhappy/uncaring police officers. According to a new salary structure proposed late last year, a police constable would earn a basic pay of KES 32,880. The 1.66 billion stolen from us would be enough to pay 4,207 police constables for a year. Given that Kenya needs a minimum of 95,000 police officers, up from the current 50,000 (to satisfy the one police for every 450 citizens ratio recommended by the UN), this would reduce our shortage by almost 10% in a year. Their goal in the manifesto is to recruit 15,000 police officers a year, and this would get them 28% closer to that goal. The government also said it intended to spend KES 25 billion improving security. As at July 2015, a quarter (KES 1.6 trillion) of the 2014/15 budget could not be accounted for. KES 25 billion would be 1.56% of this amount. The manifesto put special emphasis on CCTV as a means of improving security. The stolen KES 1.66 billion would be enough to cover 11% of the KES 15 billion tender awarded to Safaricom towards the installation of 1,800 damage proof CCTV cameras, as well as 60 LTE base stations in Nairobi and 20 in Mombasa, connecting 195 police stations in both areas to high speed internet to ease communication.

Health and education are also important pillars of the Jubilee manifesto, with improved pay packages for doctors and other medical practitioners mentioned as one of their goals. Based on a collective bargaining agreement arrived at between the doctors’ union and the government, the lowest paid doctor was supposed to earn KES 180,000 in basic pay per month, up from KES 60,000. KES 1.66 billion would be enough to pay 768 such doctors the pay they deserve for a year.

They also resolved to provide free mosquito nets to all families who need them. Mosquito nets are estimated to cost KES 255 (USD 2.50), last for 3 – 4 years, and protect an average of two people. KES 1.66 billion would be enough to buy over 6.5 million mosquito nets, protecting over 13 million Kenyans from malaria, and saving between 26,000 and 130,000 children’s lives.

The Jubilee coalition set as one of its goals the decrease of the student – teacher ratio to 40:1. Given that we have a shortage of almost 150,000 teachers, and that the Ministry of Education estimates that it would need KES 15.4 billion to recruit 40,000 teachers, KES 1.66 billion would be able to hire 4,311 teachers, leading to a 2.9% reduction. They also set out to provide free milk to every primary school going child, which is estimated to cost up to KES 154 billion per annum for about 12 million children. At an estimated cost of KES 12,833.33 per child per annum, KES 1.66 billion would provide 129,350 primary school children with milk for a year.

To improve social welfare, they set out to provide guaranteed free water supplies to those living in informal settlements pending slum upgrades. As at July 2015, according to UN Habitat, 56% of Kenyans live in slums. Since our population is estimated at 47,217,197 people, this would mean that 26,441,630 people live in slums. The average home uses about 100 litres of water a week. If buying in jerricans, this costs KES 50 per 20 litre jerrican, making it KES 250 a week, and KES 13,000 a year. If buying from a water ATM such as the one in Mathare slums, the cost reduces to KES 2.50 a week, and KES 130 a year. KES 1.66 billion would provide (assuming water ATMs are installed in all informal settlements) 12.77 million households with free, clean water for a year.

These are a few of the ways in which we are robbed by public servants; this is how they steal from us and leave us to die. When will this change? When you and I decide that enough is enough. Until then, the hustle continues.

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