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Attention Kenyan taxpayers, your MPs keep fooling you.

Posted by on 18th August 2011

Categories: Citizen Engagement Members of Parliament

By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)

It would seem, if newspaper reports are to be believed, that the MPs who refuse to pay taxes have reached an agreement with Treasury on how to go about paying their taxes. The agreement could see the MPs, who had previously refused to pay taxes, pay taxes on their full salaries and then get compensated by the treasury for paying the said taxes.

According to the papers ‘a deal was agreed at two separate meetings at the Treasury on Tuesday and Wednesday attended by top treasury officials and two representatives of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, representing MPs who refuse to pay as demanded by the new constitution. In the deal the Treasury will give MPs an ex-gratia to compensate them for paying tax on all their income’

Who will foot the bill for this deal?  he taxpayer that’s who! So in effect the Kenyan tax payer will be paying taxes that will be used to compensate their elected representative for the taxes he or she has paid on their salary, which by the way is also paid by the Kenyan taxpayer?!

And as if it is not enough for the Treasury and MPs to strike an agreement that effectively indemnifies members for paying taxes in accordance with the constitution. The agreement is also reported to include the implementation of the recommendations of the Akiwumi Tribunal on Parliamentary Terms that would see the salaries of MPs increased to Kshs 1.1 million each.

That some members of the parliament refuse to pay taxes despite clear constitutional provisions that state that they should do so and that the very same members of parliament continually attempt to negotiate their way out of paying the taxes seems to me like a slap in the face of both democracy and rule of law. What happened to democratic principles like representative government, and rule by the people? What does it mean for our democracy when 222 people (less the members that have paid their taxes, or who agree to pay) show blatant disregard for the wishes of the majority? And what does it mean for the rule of law when the people we elect to make and uphold law, are the very same ones to openly defy it?

On Harassment of Protestors

Posted by on 11th July 2011

Categories: Citizen Engagement

By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)

There’s the constant debate about whether we as nation are apathetic or just frightened, particularly when faulty government policy is met with silence.  After seeing police fire tear gas rounds, chase down with batons and arrest at least 15 of the people who were peacefully marching to protest the rising cost of living, I tend to think it’s the latter and not the former.

Just recently armed police stormed the Ministry of the Education and arrested 10 out of 25 activists that were protesting peacefully at the Minister of the Education’s offices, it still not clear what charges if any have been brought against protestors. What happened to the constitutional right to protest?  Under Article 37 of the constitution ‘every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.’ After all the protestors are not defying the will of the Kenyan people they are expressing it.  Look at what they are protesting…the rising cost of living – the country’s inflation was red flagged by the IMF when it hit an all time high of 14.49% in June, the cost of fuel is through the roof, the cost of unga is no longer affordable for the majority – and the theft of 4.2 billion shillings for free primary education. The protests are not an attack on democratic and accountable governance it is a demand for it. It is a refusal by the protestors to be part of the silent in public/noisy in private majority.

When politicians are wilfully defying the wishes of the electorate, protest is necessary. It is never justified for the police to launch violent attacks on peaceful protestors and that’s not to say that those breaking the law during the protests i.e. looters and vandals should be arrested.  However ,majority of the protestors were peaceful, and dealing with protestors by violently infringes their right assembly.

Ikolomani By-Election: The experience of an Election Observer

Posted by on 25th May 2011

Categories: 2012 Elections Citizen Engagement Constituency News

By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)

There are probably a lot of good things that can be said about the Ikolomani by-election.
Electronic registration made for quick identification voters and it also made it possible
for the officers to identify voters who were registered at more than one polling station
and in so doing reduce rigging. Professionalism of the Interim Independent Election
Commission (IIEC) officials seemed to make the by-election a faster and more pleasant
particularly with the high voter turnout which is unusual in by-elections.

However the by-elections were not without controversy, particularly over campaign
financing and allegations of voter bribery, and this raises the issue of the role money
plays in elections, especially in the lead in up 2012.

The Institute for Education and Democracy (IED) had a team of election monitors on the
ground a month before the by-election and election observers on the ground a day before
the actual poll began.  In a briefing between the two teams, the poll observers asked the election monitoring
team the major issue on which they thought the election would hinge. The election
monitors unambiguous response was money.

The link between election campaigns and the dolling  out of money by political candidates seems to have become the norm. One that is so ingrained in the
public consciousness that even very young children mimic what they see. On the
day of the election while the convoy of observers drove from one polling station
to the next, children who couldn’t have been more than ten, ran beside the convoy
shouting ‘Campaign Leta Pesa’ (campaign bring money).

In any election two things are true candidates need votes, certainly to win an election or
in this case a by-election, and because of high levels of poverty a majority of the voting
public require money for their immediate needs. This has created a dynamic in which the
way campaign funds are used distorts the proper democratic process leading to a situation
where voters sell their votes and electoral fidelity for short-term financial compensation.
Effectively selling long-term developmental outcomes for immediate short-term financial
compensation.

During any election period candidates need votes, voters demand is high therefore the
stakes are higher and voters get more money for their votes, of course the money never
lasts for the five years between elections. After the elections demand for votes is low,
voters already having sold their vote have little to bargaining power and lose the moral
authority to hold their members of parliament to account. Issue based elections and
campaigns are eschewed in favour of candidates with money.  Additionally candidates for
election have had to offer more and more and more money to entice voters to their camp,
and no question is asked as to where the money is coming from.

Even where money distorts democratic process voters are still making a choice between
candidates, but the choice is no longer based on rational, fair and equal examination of
competing policy issues. This may be something we want to think about in this period
when the electoral laws are being drafted.

Mzalendo Vox Pop: Benji asks “What More Can We Do?

Posted by on 6th April 2011

Categories: Citizen Engagement Vox Pop

Guest blog by Benji

Something I witnessed a few weeks ago made me think hard about the quality of the average Kenyan’s life even as politicians squabble and waste valuable resources.

Driving along Mombasa road on a Saturday evening, I encountered gridlock traffic and I thought to myself there must be a horrible accident up ahead.  15 minutes later, I approached a corpse in the middle of the road whose arm had been severed off. The arm lay on the tarmac 10 metres from the body.  It was a gut wrenching sight. A lone traffic cop assisted by what I thought to be a medic, helped drag the corpse to the side of the road.  Our officers are ill-equipped and ill-trained..one of the men that helped drag the body, immediately found a stainless steel lamp post whence he began to wipe his hands while bending over.
Folks, this in a country where Kshs 270 billion is squandered every year through wastage and corruption.  The new constitution we just passed, is not supposed to be just a pretty document -it is the envy of many countries in the region. It provides us fundamental rights and ideals but most Kenyans are living a life of misery and neglect and scrounging like rats.  Some examples:

  1. A few months ago a traffic police officer manning Mombasa road and deployed to manage traffic while President Kibaki was travelling, was knocked down by a speeding vehicle and died on the spot. The officer lay on the side of the road in full uniform for several hours.  Nothing much has been said about this incident but it is our hope that the administration quietly went back to condole a family whose breadwinner fell in the line of duty and offered support. That is our hope and we will be writing a letter to State House and relevant authorities seeking some answers.
  2. Did you all see the story on Mathari Hospital by David McKenzie, where a patient was held in the same room as a corpse?  Apparently, patients on receiving treatment are held while they scramble around to raise hospital fees from relatives and friends. The CNN crew investigating this story was locked up for 3 hours, illegally detained and it took phone calls to the Prime Minister’s office to secure their release.

This is the Kenya we’re living in ladies and gentlemen, where the government does not see it fit to even subsidize mental health services but is all too willing to spend tax payer money buying space in the dailies to defend ICC suspects, fuelling a jet for Kalonzo to criss cross the continent and spend the remainder of the time hurling insults and epithets at each other.

What more can we do?

Task Force on Devolved Government

Posted by on 24th February 2011

Categories: Citizen Engagement Constituency News

Have an opinion on how counties should be run?  The Task Force on Devolved Government has commenced sittings and you can find their details here.

You can also submit your views over email: devolvedgovt-at-gmail.com, OR
devolvedgovt-at-localgovernment.go.ke

Public Notice on Kiplagat Tribunal

Posted by on 22nd February 2011

Categories: Citizen Engagement

Please see this document for details.

Demonstration against Impunity

Posted by on 17th January 2011

Categories: 2007 Elections Citizen Engagement

Kenyans for Peace and Justice and a coalition of partners and concerned citizens will be demonstrating against the government’s decision to withdraw from the ICC and to use taxpayers money for the legal defense of the Ocampo 6.   Time to say enough is enough – if you are interested in participating the demonstration starts on Tuesday January 18 at 1 pm, at the  Freedom Corner, Uhuru Park.

We will be reporting on the demonstration later in the day.

Kenya Citizen’s YES Campaign in Support of the ICC

Posted by on 14th January 2011

Categories: 2007 Elections Citizen Engagement

Our politicians have demonstrated that they do not have an upper limit when it comes to impunity and acts that at best can only be described as shameful.

It is now up to us to fight back and speak out against their increasingly bizarre actions, a starting point being running around the continent – ON KENYAN TAXPAYER MONEY – to lobby the rest of the continent to withdraw from the ICC.   They seem to have quickly forgotten that they brought the ICC process on by dilly-dallying around and eventually voting down the local tribunal option (which they have now suddenly rediscovered).

There are various initiatives underway to make sure that Kenyans are not happy with the turn of events and the push to use taxpayers money to subsidize legal defense costs and anti-ICC lobbying activities.  A good starting point is the campaign to collect at least 1 million signatures of Kenyan voters who are expressing their support for the ICC process.   How can you participate?:

  • Email request for hard copies:  An email address has been set-up signonemillion-at-gmail.com where people interested in getting forms can send a request. Just write to that email & someone will send you the forms and declaration as attachments so that you can print them out wherever you are & start collecting signatures.  You can also volunteer to host a physical location e.g. your shop where people coming through can sign the petition.
  • Download the petition here and the signature schedule here.

CDF Allocation and White Elephants – Who’s Monitoring?

Posted by on 5th January 2011

Categories: CDF Citizen Engagement Members of Parliament Uncategorized

By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa

Every year 2.5% of all the government’s ordinary revenue is allocated to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). Three quarters of the 2.5% is allocated equally between the 210 constituencies. The remaining quarter is allocated on the basis of a combination of the national and individual constituency poverty indexes. While 2.5% may not seem like a lot, in the 2009/2010 fiscal year 2.5% amounted to approximately Kshs 14.5 billion allocated to ensure that the fight against poverty is carried out at the constituency level by implementation of development projects that have wide spread benefits to residents of different constituencies.

The developmental results, howeverm do not match the figures. A social audit report done by TISA tells the story of a surprising number of stalled CDF projects and wastage millions of shillings. In Emabakasi, Westlands and Langata constituencies approximately 46 million
kshs has been injected into projects, which have now stalled. In addition, a significant amount of monies cannot be accounted for – for example, 6.8 million Kshs isunaccounted for from Kasarani’s CDF.

White elephants and missing funds are not the only issue plaguing the management of
CDF – nepotism is also a problem. Just last week Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya accused Western MPs of employing their wives and relatives to manage the funds. Such accusations are not confined to Western Province.

So what is the cost of the misuse and management of CDF? The Social Audit Report
finds that almost 50% of all CDF are redirected to purposes for which they were not
intended. So of Kshs 14.5 billion that’s Kshs. 7.25 billion misappropriated in 2009/2010
alone.

Who’s accountable? At the constituency level a CDF committee manages the funds. The
committee is made up of the area MP, the District Officer, 2 Councillors, 2 Religious
Leaders, an NGO rep, a youth rep, 2 men and women from the constituency and 3
committee members. The buck stops primarily with them.

Though the new constitution provides that county governments will eventually take up
the role of management of devolved funds such as CDF. In the 2010/2011 and 2011/
2012 fiscal years the constituency development fund disbursements will be made. Who’s
monitoring the management & expenditure of the funds?

What do people think about the new Alcohol Bill?

Posted by on 8th December 2010

Categories: Citizen Engagement

By Mzalendo contributor Moreen Majiwa (on Twitter – @mmajiwa)

Kenya’s urban landscape is littered with bars. There are bars to cater for all demographics, palates, and wallets. From famed locals like ‘Njunguna’s’, ‘Mimunas’ and ‘Kathingati’s’, cobbled from little more than mabati and wood to sophisticated lounges, beer gardens and sports bars, the range is endless.

One can buy alcohol for as a little as Kshs.10. It comes in bottles, sachets, cans and some establishments require that you bring your own glass. Depending on your cash flow you can buy, brand name alcohol or elicit brews so potent that it has causes loss of sight and in extreme cases death. Last call is typically when the last client leaves.

Last month the government enacted the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010, an Act that is set to dramatically impact how and when Kenyans drink. The Act prohibits the sale of alcohol before 5pm on weekdays and before 2pm weekends.  The Act is aimed at addressing the increase in alcohol outlets in urban residential areas and near schools, the increase in the drinking among people under 18, the aggressive marketing of alcohol to the youth, and the increase of injuries and death from consumption unadulterated alcoholic drinks.

With alcohol and nyama choma being big a part of Kenyan culture the issue of alcohol control is an emotive one and though most people I spoke to had not read the Act most had very definite opinions on it, here are some:

I haven’t read the Act, the truth of the matter is that there is a new alcohol act, but as a consumer I don’t know what I’m going to do about it if anything, because I don’t know what it says. If I knew what it said I would have a stance and I’d be thinking differently. Now I’m just scared that I’m breaking the law when I go drinking and I don’t think that’s right.

Alcohol control is essential for personal protection and for protection of the society. Having said that alcohol control is not new to Kenya, it has always been there but it was more for the manufacturers and sellers of alcohol. We were more aware of it being used against people who brew chang’aa and such. However given the rising levels of alcoholism particularly among young people there is need for more extensive alcohol control I support the Act, of course enforcement is a different issue.

I haven’t read the act but I heard something like you can only drink after 5. What if I want to have a drink at lunch-time, what if I am taking clients out for lunc,h does that mean that they cannot drink alcohol? And what about the office Christmas lunch? Is this Act really well thought out. You can’t control adults in the same way you control kids, and the government should not try to control my alcohol consumption. As long as I don’t hurt people how much and when I drink is a personal choice.

No, I have not read the Act but I’ve heard of it, I wonder why the government introduced the Act in December when people drink the most and when opposition would be strongest they should have introduced it in January by then people are tired of drinking and are focussed on work and school fees, and business of bars is slow and people might have been more receptive then, the government needs to be more strategic about these things.

The Alcohol Act is really good particularly for the village. I come from Western and this issue of arresting women who brew busaa is serious. Women are always being arrested for selling illict brews, yet this is their main source of income. I know women who have supported their families and educated their children through selling busaa, now their children are teachers and even doctors. These women often live in fear of arrest or have to pay protection money. This new Act will make them legitimate businesswomen, and they can package and sell their brews like any other brewery. They might even become the next keroche.

The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act can be found here.

What are your thoughts on the Act and its implementation?