Taxpayers will spend Sh1.8 billion to purchase an office and home for Kenya’s ambassador in Geneva, Switzerland, underlining the cost of running the foreign missions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the purchase plan public last year, saying it had identified the property in the posh resort city of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
Treasury data tabled at National Assembly this month shows purchase of chancery and ambassador’s residence in Geneva has been allocated Sh820 million for the year starting July on top of the Sh1 billion allocated for fiscal period ending this month, bring the total cost at Sh1.8 billion.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the purchase plan public in 2017 saying it had identified the property in the posh resort city of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
In 2017, Foreign Affairs said it needed Sh6 billion for purchase of the Geneva property in a deal that was to be paid in phases. It is not clear whether Kenya opted for a smaller property or the Sh1.2 billion to be spent is part of phased payment.
The cost of servicing and maintaining the property in the long term is also expected to fall squarely on Kenyan taxpayers.
Parliament had earlier questioned the deal’s pricing, arguing that it was ill advised coming at a time of pressing national issues and austerity measures.
The ministry maintained the decision to buy the property was informed by the need to cut the cost of renting buildings in the diplomatic hub that hosts Europe’s UN headquarters and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
For the past 40 years, Kenya’s diplomatic mission in Geneva has rented space costing taxpayers Sh4 billion, according to ministry officials who told MPs Kenya was paying an annual rent Sh140 million in Switzerland
Economist Intelligence Unit in 2016 ranked Geneva as the fourth most expensive city in the world, partly based on higher cost of rents.
Analysts said while economic diplomacy, spearheaded through such property acquisitions, is key to entrenching Kenya’s global presence, the planned purchase cannot be termed a priority.
The concerns were however downplayed by Ministry officials, who have insisted that Kenya stands to reap more benefits from having a permanent physical address in Geneva where former Trade minister Mukhisa Kituyi serves as UNCTAD secretary-general.
The ministry reckons that Kenya has an image to keep in global circles and this comes at a cost.
By LYNET IGADWAH Business Daily