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STATE HOUSE KENYA

Kenyan president William Ruto sparred with journalists over his policies. Did he get his facts right?

Ahead of his government’s eagerly anticipated first annual budget, to be presented mid-June 2023, Ruto made a number of claims in a sit-down with journalists. How did he fare with his facts?

This article is more than 1 year old

  • Only a few months into his presidency, Kenya’s president William Ruto is already under pressure due to a struggling economy.

  • To explain his proposed policies ahead of his government’s first budget, Ruto made a number of claims. He was correct about police autonomy, the accountability for his ministers in parliament, teacher recruitment and the budget deficit. 

  • But he missed the mark on public debt, revenue growth trends, unemployment and housing for the urban poor, among other claims.

Kenya’s new government is under pressure to deliver on its pre-election promises amid an economic crisis

Rising food prices, a weakening currency and simmering opposition to new taxes are just some of the headaches that president William Ruto, in office since September 2022, would surely like to do without.

The country’s next budget, to be presented on 15 June 2023, is eagerly anticipated. Kenya’s fiscal year runs from 1 July.

Against this backdrop, Ruto sat down with journalists from six major newsrooms on 14 May. 

“For the first time we have a president who has facts and strategy for the country. Numbers don't lie,” one user on social media said.

We selected 11 claims Ruto made and vetted them for accuracy.

Claim

“I made sure that our police have financial independence.”

Verdict

Correct

Ruto claimed granting financial independence to the police to reduce pressure from the executive was one of the “three things” he delivered on his first day in office. Ruto_MediaMay2023

Sworn in on 13 September 2022, he issued an executive order the same day which gave financial autonomy for the National Police Service. Two days later, finance minister Ukur Yatani appointed the inspector general of police Hillary Mutyambai as accounting officer.

The order was widely reported in the mainstream media. 

“Yes, the police service has financial independence with the inspector general now in charge of the financial management of the service,” Dr Resila Onyango, the police spokesperson, told Africa Check.

We therefore rate the claim as correct. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“Our public debt is in the region of KSh8.8 trillion, close to KSh9 trillion.”

Verdict

Incorrect

“That's where we are,” Ruto said.

The Kenyan national treasury publishes annual public debt reports. The most recent one showed that the total public debt as of 30 June 2022 was KSh8.6 trillion (about US$62.1 billion at current rates). 

The country’s central bank also publishes monthly debt data. The most recent, published in February 2023, put total debt at KSh9.2 trillion as of 31 January.

The treasury also publishes quarterly government debt reports. The most recent, published in early May, showed that total public debt as of March was estimated at KSh9.4 trillion. 

In summary, public debt reached KSh9.2 trillion in January. The president’s figure of KSh8.8 trillion is way off the mark by KSh600 billion. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“The fiscal deficit, you know, the money we are borrowing, we have reduced it from KSh1.1 trillion last year to KSh630 billion this year. We have reduced almost KSh500 billion.”

Verdict

Unproven

When he took office, Ruto promised to reduce government borrowing. 

A fiscal or budget deficit refers to a shortfall in revenue that forces a government to borrow to cover its spending. Kenya’s public finance management law allows the government to borrow from domestic or foreign sources. 

Ruto told journalists that his government had reduced borrowing “to KSh630 billion”. 

In 2021/22, the previous financial year, the government planned to borrow KSh1.1 trillion, according to the treasury’s budget policy statement published in February 2023. 

However, initial data shows that the government borrowed KSh828 billion. This was the same figure reported in the latest budget outlook and review paper and the quarterly economic report, both prepared by the treasury. 

In the current fiscal year 2022/23, the budget policy statement showed that the government planned to borrow KSh896.2 billion, but reduced this to KSh865.3 billion. 

The treasury’s latest quarterly report, published in early May 2023, showed that the figure had been further revised to KSh855.4 billion.

Projections show planned borrowing of between KSh 743.3 billion and KSh 768.2 billion for the next financial year, 2023/24.

So far, we have not seen any data showing a deficit of KSh630 billion, or KSh500 billion as the overall drop. 

State House spokesperson Hussein Mohamed told Africa Check that the administration had done the maths and had figures to back up the document. 

He promised to share the working document that would prove the president’s claim. We will update this report when we receive it, but until then we rate the claim as unproven. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“When Mwai Kibaki came into office, we were collecting about 220 billion [in revenue].”

Verdict

Incorrect

Ruto said Mwai Kibaki quadrupled revenue during his ten years in power. 

Kibaki, who died in April 2022, was president from December 2002 to April 2013. He was sworn in on 30 December 2002, midway through the 2002/03 financial year. 

Kenya's financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June.

Revenue for the 2001/02 financial year was KSh187.9 billion, and KSh205.7 billion for the 2002/03 financial year.

The average revenue for the 2001/02 and 2002/03 financial years was therefore KSh196.8 billion – and not “about 220 billion” as claimed by Ruto. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“By the time [Mwai Kibaki] was leaving in 10 years, we were collecting almost a trillion.”

Verdict

Exaggerated

Kibaki’s term ended on 9 April 2013, two months before the end of the 2012/13 financial year. 

In the 2012/13 financial year, revenue was KSh875.5 billion before rising to KSh974.4 billion in 2013/14. Revenue reached a trillion shillings in the 2014/15 financial year. 

While Kibaki did increase revenues, when he left they were KSh124.5 billion short of the Sh1 trillion level they reached one financial year later. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“For the first time I am the one who pushed for the change of standing orders so that ministers of my administration can go to parliament and ask questions.”

Verdict

Correct

Ruto claimed to have parliament to review its legislative rules to allow ministers to engage parliament. 

In his inaugural speech to MPs on 29 September 2022, Ruto said he wanted the rules of the house to be amended to allow his ministers to “articulate government agenda, explain policy and answer questions on the floor of the house”.

“This is with a view to enhance executive accountability to the people of Kenya through their elected representatives,” he added

On 9 December, Ruto sent a memorandum to the speakers of the national assembly and senate requesting a review of the rules of the house to allow for “participation of cabinet secretaries … in parliamentary proceedings”. 

As a result, the two chambers of parliament amended their rules to allow the ministers “to expound on government policy, reply to questions and provide reports concerning matters under his or her control”. 

“The standing orders were amended to allow for cabinet secretaries to address parliamentarians,” Samuel Njoroge, the clerk of the national assembly, told Africa Check. 

We therefore rate this claim as correct. – Tess Wandia

Claim

This government has employed 35,000 teachers.

Verdict

Correct

“Serikali hii imeajiri walimu 35,000,” Ruto said, Kiswahili for “this government has employed 35,000 teachers”.

On 13 December, the Teachers Service Commission advertised positions for 4,000 primary school teacher interns, 9,000 teachers, and 21,550 teacher interns for junior secondary schools in all 47 counties of the country. 

On 30 April 2023, the commission announced that it had completed the recruitment of 35,550 teachers and that the new teachers had “reported to their stations in February and March 2023”.

Africa Check has written to the commission seeking further details of the recruitment. But pending a response and based on publicly available information, we rate the claim as accurate. – Tess Wandia

Claim

“Five million youth in our country Kenya are struggling by the roads and loitering by shops, jobless.”

Verdict

Incorrect

“Vijana wa taifa letu la Kenya, milioni tano wanahangaika barabarani, wanazunguka madukani, hawana ajira,” said Ruto. This is Kiswahili for “five million youth in our country Kenya are struggling by the roads and loitering by shops, jobless”.

Ruto previously made this claim about five million unemployed youth during his campaign ahead of the 2022 presidential election.

At the time, his campaign sent us this table from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the national data agency, showing that 5.1 million people aged 15 to 64 were unemployed or underemployed in Kenya.

But the data did not just cover young people. Kenya’s constitution defines youth as those aged between 18 and 34, but the data agency interprets youth as those aged between 15 and 34, in line with the African Youth Charter

The most recent employment data was published in February 2023 and covers the period October to December 2022. It showed that of the 18.4 million young people aged 15 to 34 years in the country, 8.4 million were not in the labour force, which is defined as “all persons in the working age population who are either employed or unemployed”. 

The report listed 9.2 million young people as employed. It showed that 800,000 young people were unemployed, or had looked for work but hadn’t found any within four weeks of the survey. A total of 3.5 million were also listed as not in education, employment or in training.

The available data does not support the claim that five million young people are unemployed. We therefore rate the president’s claim as incorrect. – Grace Gichuhi

Claim

Six million Kenyans live in slums.

Verdict

Incorrect

“Wakenya milioni sita wanaishi katika vitongoji duni,” Ruto said, Kiswahili for “six million Kenyans live in slums”. 

The president said these people lived in makeshift houses without water, toilets or good access roads.

 The United Nations Human Settlements Programme defines slums as areas where households lack durable housing, adequate living space, secure tenure, easy access to safe water or adequate sanitation facilities.

Kenya’s 2019 census puts the total urban population at 14.8 million. The UN’s latest data on the urban population living in slums shows that 50.8%, or 7.6 million people, lived in slums in 2020. This figure is also used by the World Bank.

The president’s figures are off by at least 1.6 million people, meaning the problem is worse than he estimated. We therefore rate the claim incorrect. – Tess Wandia

Claim

“700,000 Kenyans are paid from public coffers, money from taxes.”

Verdict

Incorrect

“Sisi tunaolipwa na ushuru ya wakenya ni watu elfu mia saba,” said Ruto. Translated from Kiswahili, this means “those of us paid by the Kenyans’ taxes are 700,000”.

Each year, the country’s national statistics office publishes data on the number of public servants in its annual economic survey.

The most recent data showed that in 2021, there were 923,000 public servants working in ministries, judiciary, parliament, state agencies, parastatals, independent commissions, and the 47 county governments. 

For 2022, preliminary estimates put the figure at 937,000. The president's figures are underestimated by at least 200,000 civil servants. 

We therefore rate the claim as incorrect. – Grace Gichuhi

Claim

“The current budget deficit is 5.7%.”

Verdict

Correct

A budget deficit occurs when the government expenditure exceeds total revenue. It refers to the shortfall in the government revenue needed to meet the planned expenditure. 

Ruto told journalists that if the national assembly approved his government’s budget without changes, then he would reduce the budget deficit from the current 5.7% of the gross domestic product to 4.4%. 

But is the current budget deficit 5.7%? 

The country’s treasury in February 2023 announced that it had implemented budget cuts that had reduced the deficit from 6.2% to 5.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2022/23 financial year.

The treasury had cited the same figure in a report to the national assembly in January 2023, and the national assembly noted the figure in its final report on the estimates submitted on 28 February 2023.

A month before the end of the 2022/23 fiscal year, public records showed the budget deficit at 5.7% of GDP. We therefore rate the claim as correct. – Dancan Bwire

Claim

“Kenyan exports as a percentage of gross domestic product came down from 28% eight years ago to 10% this year.”

Verdict

Incorrect

“Our exports as a percentage of GDP came down from 28% eight years ago to 10% this year,” Ruto said.

We reviewed data from Kenya’s national statistics office and the World Bank.

World Bank data showed that eight years ago, in 2015, the exports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP was 15.1%. It also showed that the last time it was at 28% was in 2005 - 18 years ago.

Exports of goods and services accounted for 18.3% of GDP in 2014 and 16.6% in 2015, according to data from the statistics office.

There's no data to support the claim that exports have accounted for 28% of GDP over the past eight years.

In addition, the most recent data was contained in the 2023 economic survey. The data showed that the figure was 10.8% in 2021, and was provisionally estimated at 12.2% in 2022. 

The last time exports accounted for 28% of GDP was in 2005. The latest estimate is 12.2%. 

We rate the claim as incorrect. – Dancan Bwire

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