Astounding History of the Budget Briefcase

  • Most Kenyans are familiar to the pose of the Cabinet Secretary after walking out of the Treasury building before the budget reading but they are unfamiliar with the history of the briefcase.

    The idea of having a budget briefcase culminated in Britain in 1860 after the then Budget chief of the country William E. Gladstone asked for something to hold the huge load of documents as he walked down the House of Common.

    The tradition was then passed down to the Commonwealth countries which include Kenya.

    [caption caption="file photo"][/caption]

    The briefcase carries only the budget statement read by the Minister in the National Assembly and nothing else.

    In Kenya, the original budget case was a 14.5 by 10 inches wooden box lined in black satin and covered with red leather.

    The brass hinged box was used by the first Finance Minister, James Gichuru to table the 1963 national budget worth Ksh280 million.

    He first waved the briefcase to Kenyans at the then Parliament which is now occupied by the Bank of India along Kenyatta Avenue.

    A few years, later the Ministry of Finance had to send a team to retrieve the case from a bar after Gichuru left it behind after engaging in a drinking spree.

    In 2014, oblivious to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, sellotape had been used to glue the coat of arms on the briefcase, an incident which didn't escape hawkeyed Kenyans.

    In accordance to budgetary procedure, an employee of the Treasury picks the briefcase from its storage in the CS’s office days before the budget is read to service it.

    The official is tasked with ensuring that the hinges and the lock are working properly and makes it ready for the budget reading day.

    [caption caption="CS Henry Rotich posing with the sellotatape sealed briefcase"][/caption]

    There is also a code used to unlock the black leather covered briefcase and only the cabinet secretaries and a few handlers know it.

    Reports further indicate that only a few individuals know the specific location where it is stored.

    “I do not know where it is kept but I know it's probably in the cabinet secretary’s office,” admits Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thuge.

    The dimensions of the box which have remained the same since independence have, however, wielded the box a little too big as the budget has reduced in page numbers and can fit in an A4 envelope.

    During Amos Kimunya’s tenure in office, the briefcase had to be replaced as it was becoming too old and was wearing out.