Kagame lauds Magufuli’s war on government spending

 Tanzanian leader John Magufuli

Tanzanian leader John Magufuli

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is known for taking the lead in showing other East African Community heads of state what they should do on areas of corruption, ICT, grassroots justice, women empowerment and general cleanliness, but this time around, on the issue of excessive expenditure by government officials, President Kagame has conceded ‘defeat’ in this area referring to his Tanzanian counterpart – President John Pombe Magufuli as “The Man” spearheading the fight against reckless government spending.

While opening the 13th National Leadership retreat last weekend, President Kagame said that President Magufuli had beaten him in this area and Rwandans will have to learn from this too. “Rwanda will no longer tolerate huge expenses incurred by government officials’ on unnecessary foreign trips,” President Paul Kagame told Rwandan top and local government officials adding that “I have been asking for justifications why they need all these expenses for the trips and I am told that it is urgent and in national interests. You wonder if our ministers have temporary jobs abroad that keep them traveling.”

President Kagame also pointed out other issues like corruption; domestic violence and continued costly law suits the government keeps losing and losing a lot of money in the process.

In December last year, Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli announced drastic measures aimed at boosting government coffers, including immediate ban on foreign travels by public servants. Magufuli’s stern measures have earned him both admirers and enemies in equal measures.

During the recent East African Community (EAC) Heads of state summit Magufuli lashed out at the EAC Secretariat on its lavish spending on meetings and travels, accusing it of reaping off the region’s poor instead of working for them. According to a statement, President Magufuli instead directed his senior government officials to make regular visits to rural areas to learn and help solve problems facing the wananchi.

The ban on foreign travels has come against the backdrop of reports that the Tanzanian government mid last year raised civil servants’ travel allowances by 50 per cent. The raise rekindled the debate on the unnecessary travels by government employees and payment of trillions of shillings in allowances every year.

About Sh3.2 trillion was expected to be spent on allowances in 2015/2016, equivalent to about half of the government’s wage bill. Per diem for foreign travel is $365 for mid-level managers and senior officers, $420 for directors and principal officers.

Rwanda’s travel allowances for top government officials could not be ascertained and the details of how Rwanda is to address this presidential demand are yet to be seen.

President Kagame himself has been relentlessly criticized by members of the opposition for his “luxurious” frequent flying abroad at the expense of tax-payers francs, and he is not the only leader in the region to face criticism on that issue. His Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta last year was nicknamed “tourist” by furious Kenyans for his globetrotting.

In response to critics President Kagame last month said his flying is primarily in national interests and that the criticism only serves to motivate him to travel more often. “I’m always working,” Kagame told a Rwandan diaspora gathering in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in February. President Kenyatta has also defended his foreign trips pointing to multi-million dollar deals his government has signed with foreign governments and corporations.