Kagame right on slashing runaway govt travel costs

Membership by states in different regional organizations should not, in and of itself, be a problem, unless they pursue contradictory goals.

Editor,

RE: “The EAC bureaucracy vs. the people” (The New Times, March 16).

 

Membership by states in different regional organizations should not, in and of itself, be a problem, unless they pursue contradictory goals.

 

Besides its membership in the East African Community (EAC), Rwanda itself is after all a member of the Economic Community of Central African States (better known by its French acronym CEEAC) and, together with Burundi and the DR Congo, of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (also better known by its French acronym of CEPGL).

 

From having followed his opening address to the Umwiherero 2016, the President’s concern was less about the commitment to EAC ideal by its member states and more about those in the Community Secretariat and among officials of member states who view Community functions as an easy source of self-enrichment, mainly through the organization of too many expensive and often unnecessary meetings for the per diems they would be paid rather than their value addition to ordinary citizens’ welfare, which is the Community’s raison d’être.

To be honest, this is a common complaint in many countries, including even some advanced ones, where projects are often loaded with meetings, workshops, seminars and other training activities in exotic locations far from the participants’ usual place of work or residence, for no other consideration than the opportunities such activities provide for the officials involved to earn per diems and the reimbursement of other expenditures that can sometimes total more than their basic salaries.

This consideration can often distort the decision-making process regarding what activities will be favoured towards those that maximize officials’ receipt of such payments.

The ordinary, mostly poor, East African tax-paying citizenry cannot afford such wasteful use of their meagre resources to enrich the Community officialdom through useless junkets.

Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania have it exactly right: cut-down on official travel expenditure that is far beyond our means very frequently for purposes that could be achieved as well through alternative lower-cost means.

The onus should be on every mission-proposer to justify why such travel is absolutely essential to the achievement of specific national objectives, that alternative cheaper means of achieving those objectives had been considered and then provide convincing reasons they were found not to be up to the task.

This is the only way to try and stem runaway government travel costs that are far beyond our public purse’s ability to meet and also to bring costs into closer alignment with actual results.

Mwene Kalinda

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