Kenyans are being told to brace themselves for tough times ahead as government plans to implement the 16 per cent value added tax on petroleum products but their representatives in the National Assembly are more interested in getting services similar to the lawmakers in the UK.
Never mind the average Briton does not suffer the same challenges as the average Kenyan that our MPs should consider benchmarking themselves with their UK counterparts; especially on perks and privileges.
It’s something of a wonder really that MPs have always agreed with one another whenever debating issues about their welfare but never seem to agree when it came to issues important to the people they represented.
This week, the lawmakers in the National Assembly unanimously and without any hitches adopted the report by the committee on Members’ Services and Facilities seeking to, among other things increase their car grant, allowances, salaries as well as offer them five-star hotel services.
To nobody’s surprise, when a report on the contraband sugar affecting the entire country and mostly sugar cane farmers was tabled, they had trouble speaking unanimously or at the very least having a sound debate. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi had to invite the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate MPs who were allegedly bribed to shoot down the report.
Kieni MP who was the co-chair of the joint committee that authored the report blamed the House leadership including the Speaker and both leader of majority and minority for leading MPs in shooting down the report. On the other hand, his team that worked on the report was also accused of protecting the sugar barons; hence the shoddy report.
Indeed it is members of this same committee that had been reprimanded by the Speaker after they were seen taking photos and exchanging pleasantries with the billionaire Jaswant Rai whom they were investigating; completely oblivious of the implications.
The probe on the contraband sugar is just one among the many bungled investigations by the National Assembly committees. Sadly, the root of this incompetence has always been corruption and or nepotism.
This is why the application lodged by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) at the Supreme Court ahead of last year’s General Elections remains important. The KNCHR supported by the civil society under the banner National Integrity Alliance (NIA) sought the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion on what was the proper threshold for meeting the qualifications of leadership and integrity following the many inconsistent rulings that have seen candidates deemed to lack integrity vying for public office.
At the end of the day, this is what it comes down to. Do we have leaders of integrity? Throughout the years nothing has shown the lack of integrity among MPs than these House committees. All investigations into scandals that have led to the loss of millions and billions carried out by Parliamentary committees hardly yielded anything worth the return on investment.
The committee members spend millions of tax payer’s money earning allowances and retreating in fancy lodges to write reports that in most cases prove the whole exercise was a waste of time and money.
It is now emerging that the sports committee that went on a benchmarking trip to Russia couldn’t even write a proper report worth the money spent on them in Russia. The local media has established the 37 page-report was entirely plagiarized from different sports websites – word for word, and that only about three pages, including table of contents was original.
The MPs went as far as plagiarizing their “observations”. How low can it get?
Meanwhile, the President is under pressure to freeze projects over lack of money; the public continues to get burdened with taxes but their representatives are not that bothered. Some of them even want blind masseuse to massage them in the gym.
Perhaps it’s time we had a national debate on Parliamentary committees; are they really necessary? How many should they be? And who should form part of these committees? We’d rather have less than five committees working for Kenyans and constitute leaders of integrity than money-minting opportunities for thugs in the name of committees.