While the MPs of the 10th Parliament have been very vocal in challenging the proposal to tax their allowances, this vigor has, unfortunately, not found its way to other critical aspects of the Budget.
This week the Speaker raised concerns that the Budget will be passed without proper debate. So far three days of the allocated seven days for debate have been wasted due to a lack of quorum. In addition, neither the Minister of Finance nor his Assistant, have been present to record the views of the MPs. Readers should note that a lack of quorum is only declared once a MP rings a bell to alert the Speaker that there is no quorum (i.e. there is less than 30 MPs in the House). This essentially means that unless the Speaker’s attention is formally flagged a debate can proceed without the lack of quorum (and this happens often), because no one has rung the bell.
MarsGroupKenya has done a great analysis on why debate on the Budget is so critical. If our ELECTED representatives do not question the governments priorities, who will speak for Kenyans? Please leave a comment for your MP and let them know that you will be watching their stance on taxes on allowances and on the Budget itself. After all – they should be working for YOU!
According to Mars Group, the areas that could benefit from further scrutiny from the MPs include the following (we wonder why the media hasn’t raised similar concerns?):
Hospitality: Last year the GOK budget for entertainment of its guests amounted to Ksh 5.7 million per day for every day of the year. The total bill was Ksh 2.16 billion for the year 2007. This year Mr. Kimunya wants to increase the budget from just under Ksh 500,000 per day to Ksh 728,000 per day?
Utilities: State House has higher water and power budget than 26 whole Ministries including Parliament itself, the Judiciary, and the Ministry of Roads and Public Works.
Rent: MPs should be concerned that GOK spends Ksh 3.995 billion on rents per annum and only receives Ksh 239.368 million per year from property income and rent.
Printing: Last year the Government managed to spend Ksh 6.2 million per day on commercial printing of its documents – despite the existence of the Government Printers Office.
Foreign Travel: Last year, the Government of Kenya spent over Ksh 6.7 million per day every day of the year on foreign travel.
Purchase of Cars: Did you know that State House Nairobi has 149 cars? Did you know that this year Minister of Finance wants to buy Ksh 73 million more worth of cars for State House? Did you know that last year a similar amount of money was spent on cars at State House? Did you know that the Government budget for cars for 2008 has gone up by 1 billion shillings, even as public attention is consumed by the debate on MP’s allowances? Unless MPs debate the budget this week, Minister Kimunya is likely to get approval to spend at least 50% of his Ksh 2.6 billion motor vehicle purchase budget and we will never know why he needs so many cars.
Lump sum budgets: Every year the Minister of Finance presents lump sum budgets for the National Security Intelligence Services, the Armed Forces and the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission. This year their collective budgets will pass the Ksh 47 billion mark – and yet they will be no debate on the budget items in them because the Minister of Finance has helpfully provided none. Here’s a question for the MPs: why would the official agency responsible for promoting transparency and accountability in Government not be accountable to Parliament for every single shilling in its budget?
KEN REN FERTILISER FACTORY: The Minister of Finance intends to pay an Austrian Bank called BAWAG over Ksh 300 million this year for the never-built fertilizer factory.
NAVY SHIP: Did you know that the Minister of Finance has asked Parliament to authorize the payment of a staggering Ksh 4.94 billion this year to 3 foreign companies for a controversial Navy Ship? Did you know that the Controller and Auditor General told Parliament in 2006, that this deal was illegal and had breached the External Loans Act which requires parliamentary approval for all foreign debt? Did you know that the ship which the Minister of Finance wants to use tax money to pay for does not have weapons on board, and its equipment’s warranty has lapsed? Did you know that all these issues have not been properly investigated to date? Did you know that Ksh 4.94 billion is more than the entire budget of the Ministry of Water? Do you believe that Members of Parliament should approve the Minister of Finance’s request to spend taxpayers’ money this way?