Fact-checked: Kenyatta’s 2017 State of the Nation Address

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Kenya's president delivered his fourth state of the nation address in Nairobi. We fact-checked his claims.


Up for re-election in August, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta gave a sometimes impassioned defence of his record as part of the 2017 State of the Nation address, pegging it against his 2013 manifesto. Africa Check is working through his claims to sort fact from fiction. This report will be updated as new claims are completed.

Security

Claim

“Our ratio of police to the population is 1 officer for 380 citizens, better than the prescribed UN ratio of 1 officer for every 450 citizens.”

Verdict

incorrect

The police to population ratio indicates the number of police officers serving a community, relative to its size. For example, if a community has 1 police officer serving 100 people, the ratio is 1:100.

In its pre-election manifesto launched in February 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling party pledged to “increase the police-citizen ratio from 1:1,150 to a ratio of 1:800 citizens within five years…”.

(Note: The actual ratio continues to vary – for example on 3 March Kenyatta said the ratio in 2013 “was 1 policeman to 1,000 civilians”.)

In a January 2017 speech, Kenyatta said that “we now have 98,732 officers in our ranks compared to 78,885 in 2013, an increase of more than 25%”. In its 2013-2018 strategic plan, the National Police Service showed that 75,325 people (not 78,885) served in its three branches in 2013.

Africa Check contacted inspector-general Joseph Boinnet to clarify these numbers, but he is yet to provide the data, despite promising to do so.

In March 2017, some 5,916 officers graduated. Using the president’s numbers, this would bring the total number of police officers to 104,648. In its most recent estimate, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics placed Kenya’s population at 44.2 million in 2015.

Using these numbers, the ratio works out to a policeman for every 422 Kenyans. For the ratio to be 1:380,  Kenya’s current population would have to be to 39.8 million, or police numbers would need to increase to 116,315.

Senior researcher for Amnesty International, Abdullahi Boru, reckons that the president was using Kenya’s 2009 population estimate of 38.6 million people to work out the ratio, despite there being newer estimates of the population.

A second issue with the ratio is that the UN defines police personnel as “those whose principal functions are the prevention, detection and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders”.

The UN (which gets its data from the official data agency) therefore only includes the number of Kenya Police members, who are often referred to as the regular police, in its database.

If we use the number of regular police members at last count by the National Police Service Commission (44,705), the ratio works out to 1 police officer for every 989 Kenyans. If we add the new recruits the ratio falls to 1:872.

Africa Check was unable to find proof that the UN has ever recommended a ratio of 1:450. It seems to date back to the United States’ policing of occupied Germany in 1945 when one American policeman oversaw 450 German civilians. Available literature shows that its success at the time has tended to inform international policing.

Analysts we spoke to said the focus should be on the quality of policing, not absolute numbers.

Devolution

Claim

“My administration has gone over and beyond the constitutional requirement by increasing the percentage of shareable revenues [with Kenya’s counties] from 15% to 34%.”

Verdict

correct

In 2010, a new constitution provided for the creation of 47 county governments. The sharing of revenue between them has generated considerable political debate including calls for a referendum to increase the share to the counties.

The law provides for equitable sharing of money with the counties of “not less that 15%” of all revenue collected by the national government.  This amount is calculated using “the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly.”

The Commission on Revenue Allocation is tasked with this, according to Jason Lakin, a research fellow at the International Budget Partnership. The agency’s proposals are then submitted to parliament, which enacts a law outlining what both the national government and counties are due.

The commission’s data shows that county governments got KSh190 billion in the 2013/14 financial year and KSh226.66 billion in the 2014/15 financial year. The most recent audited accounts were those of 2010/11, which showed the government had collected KSh608 billion.

But because these had not been approved by the National Assembly as the chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee Mutava Musyimi told the House then, 2009/10 revenues were used.

Based on this data, the revenue was KSh529.3 billion, meaning the allocations worked out to 28% of the “most recent audited accounts of revenue” that had been approved.  

The same base year was used for the 2014/15 allocation, with KSh226.66 billion going to the counties. This was 43% of the most recent audited and approved accounts of revenue.

For the 2015/16 financial year, revenue data from 2012/13 was used, which showed KSh776.9 billion had been collected by the national government. The allocation to counties was KSh 259.8 billion, or 33%.

Lawmakers further approved audited accounts for the financial year 2013/14, raising the base revenue to KSh935.5 billion. The counties got KSh302 billion, or 32.3% for the 2016/17 financial year. (Note: Treasury recorded KSh304.2 billion, or 33% of audited revenue.)


Over the four years, allocation to Kenya’s counties works out to an average 34% of the most recent audited accounts of revenues – above the constitutional threshold of “not less than 15%”.

Economy

Claim

“Our gross domestic product has expanded at [a] strong average annual growth rate of 5.9% since 2013.”

Verdict

unproven

In its most recent quarterly report, the National Treasury says that Kenya’s economy grew by 5.7 % in 2013, fell to 5.3 % in 2014 and recovered to 5.6 % in 2015.

These figures are mirrored in the Economic Survey 2016 produced by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the government’s official data agency.

For 2016, Treasury records average growth across the first, second and third quarters of 2016 at 5.9%, 6.2% and 5.7% respectively.

For the economy to have expanded at an average of 5.9% since 2013, it would have needed to grow by 7% in 2016, or 10.2% in the last quarter of 2016 alone.

The World Bank, in its October 2016 Kenya Economic Update forecast full 2016 growth of 5.9%.

The Parliamentary Budget Office – the non-partisan office that advises parliament on the budget and the economy – in a forecast released in March 2017 has predicted that the economy in 2016 would grow by 5.8%, with a slower Q4 growth of 5.4%. This, it says, is due to reduced rainfall, slower manufacturing output and the effects of an interest rate cap, which the president admitted was hurting lending.

We have asked the presidency for the source of the president’s economic numbers and will update this report with their response.

In the absence of full 2016 data however, we find this claim unproven because evidence publicly available at this time neither proves nor disproves the statement.

Despite this brisk growth, there has been concern that many Kenyans are not benefiting, sentiments that Kenyatta also acknowledged.

Kwame Owino is the chief executive officer of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank in Kenya. He said that despite the country’s growth being above the regional average, it was not being felt in the country because the bulk of it was in big-money investment into a KSh447 billion standard-gauge railway project.

Funded by a loan from China and with the main contractor being a Chinese firm, it is planned to connect the coastal city of Mombasa with the western Kenya border town of Malaba and is the current administration’s flagship project.

“Most of what we are calling growth is driven by the standard-gauge railway. Most of the money is going back to China, and only a small share has percolated, so to speak, into the local economy, and even that is not distributed evenly,” Owino told Africa Check.

Claim

“Our debt is at about 50% of our gross domestic product.”

Verdict

downplayed

Kenyatta’s reference to the country’s public debt followed what he said were legitimate concerns that it might be too high.

(Note: Public debt is how much a government owes to lenders. It is not the same as external debt, which is what is owed to foreign investors by both the government and private entities.)

Preliminary International Monetary Fund findings put Kenya’s debt at 52.1% of its gross domestic project in the 2015/16 financial year, which ended on 30 June 2016. This is compared to a 2014/15 debt ratio of 48.7% of GDP.

(Note: The IMF projects Kenya’s debt to be at 52.5% of GDP in the current financial year, rising to 53.3% in 2017/18.)

As for calendar years, the ratio was at 48.6% of GDP in 2014 and 51.2% in 2015, rising to a projected 54.4% in 2016.

Development economist Anzetse Were told Africa Check that rising debt may not be sustainable in the long run. This was due to ballooning non-productive spending, she said, citing recurrent expenditure such as salaries.

“The government needs to focus on getting the balance between recurrent and development expenditure right,” she said.

A 2010 World Bank study found that for developing economies, a debt-to-GDP ratio of 64% was the “tipping point” at which public debt would hurt economic growth.

Public wage bill

Claim

“In simple terms, 50% of all the money collected as revenues in Kenya goes into the pockets of less than 2% of the country’s total population.”

Verdict

correct

The most recent estimate of Kenya’s population is 44.2 million, contained in the 2015 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Using this data, the country would need to have not more than 884,000 people on its public payroll. In his speech, Kenyatta said 700,000 public officers were being paid KSh627 billion, an amount he termed “staggering”.

A recent audit commissioned by Kenya’s parliament and overseen by the auditor-general found that there were 700,700 public sector workers in 2013.  The bureau’s Economic Survey captured 718,400 workers as contracted in 2015.

Does their pay, which includes both salaries and allowances, take up more than half the government’s revenue? The Kenya Revenue Authority is the principal tax collector of revenue in the country. The commissioner-general of the authority put tax collected in the financial year 2015/16 at KSh1.2 trillion.

This figure is also backed up by the Treasury’s Budget Review and Outlook Paper for 2016 which records that total tax revenue including appropriations-in-aid (budget jargon for monies that a department can retain, such as fees and levies) amounted to KSh1.237 trillion.

The numbers thus appear to support the president’s claim.

Senior University of Nairobi lecturer Gerrishon Ikiara says the issue is clearly a major public concern as a higher wage bill means the country has less money to use on development.

“Controlling it is not easy due to a liberal constitution that has spurred strikes and also partisan interests,” Ikiara, who focuses on economics and development studies, told Africa Check.

“An economical way of dealing with issues such as overrepresentation may be by tabling them at [upcoming elections], but also by picking leaders who see the bigger picture.”

Health

Claim

“Today, we have doubled the numbers of expectant mothers delivering under the care of skilled medical attendants to over 1.2 million by the end of 2016.”

Verdict

unproven

When he took office in 2013, Kenyatta told parliament that he would “expand and promote maternal, child and primary health care services” and “abolish all charges” for women giving birth at public hospitals.

Kenya’s Demographic Health Survey of 2014 showed that between 2009 and 2014, 37% of births took place at home, while 61% were in a health facility. Nearly all of the births in a health facility were facilitated by a skilled medical attendant, translating to 62% of all births in the period surveyed.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows that of the 870,599 births registered in 2013, a total of 711,105 births (or 81.7%) took place in health facilities.

In 2014, births in health facilities rose to 796,230 out of a total of 954,254 listed (or 83.4%). Provisional 2015 figures showed that 855,720 out of a total of 950,226 births – 90% – were in health facilities. The agency has yet to release 2016 data.

Did the number of mothers delivering under the care of skilled attendants jump more than 40%, from 855,720 in 2015 to over 1.2 million a year later? In the absence of the latest data, it is impossible to say.

Electrification

Claim

“Today, we have connected an additional 3.7 million new homes to electricity.”

Verdict

incorrect

The supply of energy to Kenyans is the mandate of the national power utility company, Kenya Power. The ministry of energy has oversight over new connections, though, including through the Rural Electrification Project.

In the last financial year of the preceding government, 2,330,962 customers were connected to the power grid. In the first full financial year of the Kenyatta administration (2013/14), the number of connections rose to 2,766,441. At the end of June 2016, Kenya Power noted that it had connected 4.89 million customers.

When the head of Kenya Power, Ben Chumo, left the company in January 2017, he said that one of his major achievements was increasing the customer base from 2.2 million in 2013 to 5.5 million in 2016 – which would be an increase of 3.3 million. (Note: These figures were echoed by energy cabinet secretary Charles Keter in a brief two days later.)

However, following media reports that nearly a million of these connections were inactive, Kenya Power said 974,173 connections were “zero-vend” ones (meaning no power units were bought since installation). It said reasons for this included low consumption, tampering and installations at unoccupied houses.

Kenya Power has so far inspected 204,474 of these disputed connections, it said, but insisted that it had met its connectivity targets. However, even if they did, Kenya Power would have added at most 3.2 million customers, not 3.7 million as the president claimed.

Infrastructure

Claim

“With 1,950 km of new roads completed, and another 7,000 km in different phases of construction, we have kept the promise [to undertake the most aggressive road construction programme ever seen in Kenya].”

Verdict

unproven

In 2013, the new government promised “to undertake the most aggressive road construction programme ever seen in Kenya”.

An infrastructure budget report issued in September 2016 showed that 1,194 km of new roads were constructed between 2013/2014 and 2015/16. That figure is also replicated in the Budget Policy Statement 2017.

According to the Economic Survey 2016 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, roads “under bitumen” increased from 11,300 km in July 2013 to 13,900 km by July 2015.  

However, the survey did not clarify whether this increase of 2,600 km was “new roads” or existing roads that had been tarred.

In the data agency’s Statistical Abstract 2016, a table sourced from the Kenya Roads Board shows that the bitumen roads rose from 11,230 km in 2013 to 11,274 km in 2015 and 11,378 km in 2016, or only an additional 148 km.

We have contacted the roads board for comment and will update this report with their response. Given the widely conflicting figures, we rate this claim as unproven until then.

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