Billionaire Humphrey Kariuki is set to bag dozens of millions of shillings as a huge government entourage comprising of cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, advisors and senior officials camp at his Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari club for the next four days.
This is as Kenyatta era tenderpreneurs continue to feel the cold as a new team of business sharks with close ties to the Kenya Kwanza regime get a taste of what it means to be close to government. Kariuki who had a difficult time in the last days of the Jubilee regime due to his association with Ruto was in December appointed to National Investments Council.
To further help the billionaire recoup the losses he made in the last few years, the government has chosen his hotel for a four-day retreat for its top officials.
The retreat which is being hosted by President William Ruto comes is meant to review the steps the Kenya Kwanza administration has made since assuming office and also spell out key areas of focus to see the realization of their campaign pledges as the new year begins.
“The retreat between 5th-8th January will crystallize the implementation programme of the Administration’s Plan for the Year 2023,” said State House spokesman Hussein Mohammed ahead of the retreat which began today.
It is not known how many government officials will attend the high-level workshop but the number will easily exceed a hundred if you include their handlers, security, drivers, bloggers and hangers-ons who are usually present in such high meetings but are not directly involved in the proceedings.
An attempt by sauce.co.ke to book accommodation at the high-end hotel for the next four days was not possible. This means the government ring fenced and locked out the hotel to other guests. The next available date when there will be a free room is January 10.
This means that the state could have paid for the entire 110 rooms at the exclusive hotel for the next four days. Accommodation at the hotel ranges from Sh25,000 for a normal room to Sh172,000 for a private villa with four bedrooms. The Kenya Kwanza government has 22 cabinet secretaries, 51 principal secretaries and dozens of advisors.
Nested at the foot of Mt Kenya, Fairmont hotel boasts among its guests UK Royal Family, late Winston Churchill, Prince Berhard of the Netherlands, Lord Louis Mountbatten, author Robert Ruark, former US President Lyndon Johnson, Conrad Hilton, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
The hotel that sits on 100-acre grounds, surrounded by a forest and a river running in it, owns six helipads and a private chapel with impressive views of Mt Kenya.
A guide into the billing at the hotel springs out of the fact that only the wealthy can afford to stay there. A Swedish massage for example is available but costs Sh5,200 an hour. Horse riding costs Sh4,500 for two hours while renting a golf set and the high-end Taylor Made Golf Set go for Sh1,600 and Sh2,500 respectively
Interestingly the decision to hold a workshop at the hotel comes just two months after the government outlawed state officials from holding meetings in five-star hotels. The directive which was issued in November as part of new austerity measures announced by President Ruto was to cut non-plan expenditures by state departments.
“The budget cuts have targeted various items such as local and foreign training, office and general supplies, hospitality supplies and services, local and foreign travel, purchase of office furniture, purchase of office equipment and various projects that have low absorption rates or challenges of implementation,” said National Treasury in a memo dated November 1, 2022, to all heads of State departments.
“The National Treasury has complied with the requirement and this constrained the financial year 2022-23 budget. Subsequently, it has become inevitable to cut down on some activities and effect the following control measures to manage expenditures.
The Jubilee government also held a similar retreat at the same venue in 2014 just months after coming into office raising an uproar from members of the public when the Standard Media Group disclosed that over 100 million shillings had been spent at a time when the economy was in a dire state.
“Calculations by The Standard, based on actual expenditure incurred by our reporters at the resort after the Government event and interviews of people in the know reveals a different picture. The Ksh100 million figure was derived from costing of the 120 rooms reserved for the government delegation at the resort, fees paid for closing of hotel to other guests, food and accommodation levies, and the cost of plane-hiring and extra services,” said the Standard at that time.
The then State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu countered the claims by Standard saying that the retreat at the luxurious hotel cost the State just Sh8.1 million. Bloggers attached to State House then released a copy of an invoice indicating the parley had guzzled Sh8.4 million. The Star newspaper too came up with its own figures saying that the retreat cost Sh14 million.
When the dust died down, the decision by the Standard to run the story cost a number of staff at the Mombasa Road based media house their jobs starting with Editorial Director Chacha Mwita.