MPs lack enthusiasm in scrutinizing the Division of Revenue Bill

Posted by on 24th March 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Our law makers are always attentive and enthusiastic when scrutinizing anything relating to their heavy perks. This excitement and attention is hardly reciprocated when important issues come to the floor of the house. Take the Distribution of Revenue Allocation Bill for Instance; National Treasury and Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) disagree on many issues with regard to funding of counties. But, MPs and Senators who should debate and provide way forward remain lethargic.

Devolution was supposed to deal with inequitable distribution of resources that was established under the previous centralized government. In effecting this, The Distribution of Revenue Allocation Bill was expected to remedy these disparities.

Our law makers should be at the fore front asking why we have a distribution formula that does not consider all parameters to ensure equitable sharing. There is also some sort of vagueness, for instance what does the term National Interest mean, especially because Ksh. 22 billion was allocated for “National Interest” which includes: NYS re-engineering and the Laptop project. Are our law makers in agreement that these are indeed national interests?

Besides, Senators who are supposed to be the defenders of devolution should be validating CRA claims that more money needs to be given to counties because as the commission explains, counties inherited workers from the government hence increased wage bill.

Secondly, that functions have been devolved mean higher operation costs and they are putting across an important logic, that, why should the National government increase their budget while offloading some of their functions to county governments and reducing county budget despite the increasing roles they are taking up from the national government? These are issues you expect Senate or National Assembly to provide a clear voice on.

Indeed devolution is expected to bring power (involvement at policy making) to the people through public participation but that important political activity remains poorly conducted. While Kenyans are equally reluctant to engage in public participation of important political events, our law makers have not attempted to address the issue genuinely; which may mean they are not really keen on the public’s involvement. In fact both National Assembly and Senate are guilty of giving sometimes one day notices of public participation.

The plea to our law makers is that as people charged with the duty of defending the constitution, they should show more enthusiasm, especially now that a lot of institutions are still on transition to live up to the spirit of the constitution. As far as Distribution of Revenue Allocation Bill is concerned they should have debated CRA recommendations verses the National Treasury implementation plan.

Parliamentarians should give up the self-defeating flexing of muscles between them and the county government that only stalls the implementation of the new constitution. They should instead work consultatively with both county and National government and make laws that help the country see the fruits of devolution as envisioned in the constitution.

For starters, it has emerged through CRA that part of the reason counties are under-funded is because we have State Corporations performing devolved functions creating unnecessary duplication of roles. Why can’t Senators and MPs identify and deal with these State corporations that are performing devolved functions and as a result hoarding funds meant to be used by county government?

These are the issues law makers should spend more time on than worrying about raising the budget ceiling to ensure MPs elected in 2017 have a new car.

The IEBC Fails Litmus Test

Posted by on 18th March 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Nothing irks than watching someone engage in a pointless activity; even worse when such an activity indirectly affects your life. Despite having been a King of what is now Corinth, Sisyphus is mostly remembered for the useless job that he was cursed to do-rolling a huge rock up a hill and watching it tumble down and repeating the exercise over and over. Like Sisyphus Kenyans have a penchant for using our hard earned taxes on institutions we know won’t deliver but we don’t mind the cycle. It’s our curse.

IEBC is probably the one institution that makes the whole country appear as though it is cursed. Forget the scandals and controversies’ surrounding this important commission, IEBC appears clueless about their objective, constantly giving excuses and apportioning blame unnecessarily.

Firstly, by their own admission, the recently concluded mass voter registration (MVR) missed the target by 70% as the commission managed to register slightly under 1 million. To say that was a dismal performance is an understatement. Their reason for failing to meet the target was the usual chorus- insufficient funds. Meaning Ksh. 500 million given to them was not enough to register 3 million eligible voters.

Never mind the civil society groups and activists who mobilized people online to go and register outside IEBC’s budget. The commission did not give the much needed guidance and information about the exercise in good time. Despite their continuous request for more funds there’s little evidence of voter education as can be confirmed by the results.

It appears the by-elections eclipsed the MVR which in a sense may point to the disorganization and inability by IEBC to run parallel activities. Interestingly, countries with far bigger eligible voters spend less than what IEBC requested with impressive results which begs the question: are the dynamics here too different or the commission is over relying on financial resource at the expense of strategy? And when IEBC complains that political leaders were not involved are they admitting incompetence and therefore require outside help to achieve their targets?

Admittedly, regions where leaders called on people to register had impressive results but that was partly because leaders from these regions claimed IEBC was not fully in control of the exercise and accused the government of interferences. Consequently, the commission had to clarify that the BVR kits they had surrendered to the Devolution ministry had been wiped clean of any data and could not be used for any parallel registration. Even so they went ahead to warn politicians of engaging in parallel registration.

The argument over voter apathy also holds little water as most eligible voters were turned away for having old generation ID cards when IEBC should have foreseen that challenge and acted proactively to ensure nobody was turned away. In other cases, there were fewer BVR kits prompting some individuals to make unsubstantiated allegations over favoritism by the IEBC.

We have about one year to the next general elections and the referee in this high-stakes elections four years away is still failing the credibility test. Kericho and Malindi by-elections are testaments that IEBC has a long way to go in so far as carrying out satisfactorily credible elections are concerned. All the major parties involved have cried foul and enough media reports showed political leaders in compromising situations yet IEBC did not bring any one to book.

For starters, IEBC should think less about funding and more about strategy. Strategy ensures you achieve a lot with less funds, then embark on a cleaning exercise by vetting afresh all commissioners and firing those mentioned in corruption cases or have pending cases, then seek funding.

Let’s Be Real Education Matters in Policy Making

Posted by on 11th March 2016

Categories: Members of Parliament

Most of us have only guessed at it but it turns out educated legislators actually perform better than less educated ones. While compiling Parliament’s annual scorecard, we realized that education played an important role in the quality of debate argued by an individual on the floor of the House

For instance, the top five best performers in the National Assembly in the year 2015 all have a postgraduate degree. Indeed this is also true of the Senate where most members are educated; the quality of debate is above average.

The link between academic background and fruitful contributions in Parliament comes out more because one’s education indirectly influences their capacity to handle their Parliamentary responsibilities – representation, oversight, budgeting and legislation. As such, MPs with lower educational qualifications may not be able to lead parliamentary committees or handle responsibilities that require heavy borrowing from their academic background. The MP may also be unable to present the constituency needs due to intimidation or lack of capacity.

It’s getting clearer that law makers who performed rather poorly have questionable academic backgrounds and it appears a number of them either bought those qualifications or simply go through the process to acquire the papers for political expediency hence the lack of substance in their contributions. Perhaps the electorate may need to be wary of individuals who acquire degrees or diplomas in a short record or in institutions that are not reputable.

Nonetheless, every market has its mad man and in our report, we identified three well educated legislators among those who contributed nothing for the 12 months that they were in Parliament.

This oddity could mean that these elected leaders have very little interest in their elected positions and won their seat by virtue of their party popularity in their constituencies only. Perhaps they were lured to Parliament by the connections and power it brings rather than the need to serve their constituents.

In 2013, The Economist revealed that Kenyan MPs are amongst the highest paid law makers in the world compared to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. That 27 MPs have been receiving salary including sitting allowances for contributing absolutely nothing for 12 months is audacity of a new kind.

Even more surprising was the fact that five MPs had not uttered a single word since the life of the 11th Parliament begun in 2013. Either these MPs represent regions that are flourishing and their constituents are satisfied or they are clueless about the expectations their constituents have of them.

How do you watch your colleagues debate bills, bring amendments or oppose them while you sit in silence for three years? That their conscience does not prick them is even more disturbing.

Is it time Kenyans gave life to the Right of Recall clause to keep Parliamentarians in check? These findings should be a wakeup call to our lawmakers; we are watching them keenly and hope that the electorate will act decisively when the time comes.

Auctioned Futures: The Children of Corruption

Posted by on 4th March 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Over 5000 students had their KCSE certificates cancelled over cheating cases in the just released 2015 KSCE examination results. And while the Education CS says, the sharing of the cheating cases shows they had nothing to hide, it also communicates volumes about the moral fabric of our time.

Cheating cases in primary and secondary schools examinations have been on the rise. No doubt in our universities as well. However, there’s a direct correlation in the rise of cheating cases and corruption cases in our country today.

While corruption hasn’t begun today, it was generally hushed down and even those who engaged in corruption attempted to treat is as the vice it is. First forward to present Kenya and corruption appears to be a community activity. Parents are no longer saddened their children are caught cheating, no, their concern is “why they are the ones targeted!” typical political response.

Nonetheless, cheating in schools is made possible by all Kenyans. It’s a communal activity. When we praise schools that have been cheating – due to pressure exerted by society to remain at the top – and send our children there, regardless of the expensive fee structure-which hardly correlates with school activities or operations we are sending a signal to other school heads to engage in malpractice. We are simply saying we want our children to have good grades regardless of the means.

Most cases where there’s mass cheating leading to disqualification of an entire school, the teachers are usually knee-deep in the scandal. When one charged with the molding young minds impresses upon them the need to steal exams you can imagine how bad things are.

Children are learning early that, you don’t have to go the long way when you can use a short cut. They are also learning that, what is important is you don’t get caught. There is no moral ground to stand on and tell pupils and students the need to work hard and avoid shortcuts by cheating when the country appears to be on tenderprenureship mode. MPs have failed to hold public servants accountable and impunity reigns supreme. Exam cheating is a mere ripple effect of their inability to stand for justice and public good.

From the Goldenberg scandal to Chickengate, no culprit has ever been sentenced for misappropriation of public funds. If anything, we exalt those politicians who dish out money to the public without attempting to find out how they came about that kind of money. Why then should we be surprised when children are finding it easier to copy than to read for their exams?

When you grow up hearing about mega corruption scandals and knowing not one person who has ever served a jail term for the same, the idea begins to entice you. That’s the danger of impunity.

When our MPs won’t make the public afraid of engaging in corruption, the vice spreads to other institutions and takes different forms and if nothing is done quickly to change this trend doctors misadvising patients to go to India for kick-backs will be the least of our worries.

In the meantime MPs as the watchdogs of society and representatives of the people should see the part they are playing in these cheating cases and step up and deal mercilessly with corrupt public servants and just maybe, we can win this war in other places it’s cropping up otherwise, we can only expect the number of cheating cases to increase.

MPs Greed: What Ksh. 8.35 billion can do

Posted by on 26th February 2016

Categories: Corruption Kenya Consititution

The relationship between Kenyans and their elected members of Parliament borders that of an abusive relationship. It’s a typical prime time soap opera TV program that is popular with most Kenyans.

These soaps are usually very linear, nothing out of the ordinary. The protagonist (say a woman) will live a miserable life, keeping up with an abusive partner until one day she meets Prince charming who will “open her eyes” to realize she owes the antagonist nothing and she can have a better life with the new macho guy. Sounds familiar?

In our case, MPs are the abusive partner, misusing our hard earned cash and quite extravagant with our money. Unfortunately, we haven’t met Prince charming yet who will open our eyes to see the abusive relationship we are in, otherwise we wouldn’t be constantly voting in the same culprits that have made our lives unbearable. Like the antagonist in these soaps, the MP promises heaven when they want to be voted in or taken back only to show their true colors once assured of the position.

If MPs honestly cared about Kenyans, rather than demanding payment for work they will not do in the name of breach of contract, they could have sacrificed the money as a sign of good faith and promote development projects.

Here’s what the Ksh. 3.3 billion combined with MCAs, Ksh. 5.05 billion could have done between now and the next elections

  1. With only ksh. 3 billion legislatures can construct 1000 solar powered primary schools in the rural areas bridging the advantage city pupils have over rural pupils. Already Aleutia-a UK based company in conjunction with Stonehouse ltd have implemented these designs in Kiambu Kenya.

 

  1. With only Ksh. 3 billion or less our MPs can build at least 500 solar powered market stalls. There’s no need to have shops in rural areas closing by 6pm when we can harvest solar and create a 24hour economy in the rural areas. Again, the estimates are according to the same company that’s already implementing the same.

 

  1. With Ksh. 1 billion MPs together with MCAs can invest in local scientists and introduce biological control measures and clean Lake Victoria of the hyacinth that’s rendering the region poor.

In any case MPs and MCAs are not entitled to the Ksh. 8.35 billion. First, they knew their term will be shorter than the previous Parliament. In fact, the court had on this question in the matter of Interim Independent Commission Sup. Ct. Constitutional Application No. 2 of 2011 ruled that, “The elections come in the context of the first progressive, public-welfare-oriented, historic Constitution which embodies the people’s hopes and aspirations. Not only are these elections one of the vital processes instituted under the Constitution, but they constitute the first act of establishing a whole set of permanent governance organs.” Meaning being the first election that was introducing other new structures, the complexity of the first few elections after promulgation of the constitution had been foreseen. The question of MPs and MCAs compensation, therefore, does not arise.

Secondly, the election date set in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 was passed by all Kenyans, so is the law and cannot be changed. Thirdly, legislators must lead by example and obey the basic principles laid out in the law of the land. Will Parliamentarians arm-twist the Executive again to get their interests met over the wishes of all Kenyans? For how long will Kenyan leaders prioritize their selfish-interests’ over the publics! On the same matter on general elections, the judges concluded thus:

“Clearly, any ambivalence or uncertainty in the path of such crucial elections must, as a matter of public interest, be resolved in time: and the task of resolution rests, in the circumstances prevailing, with the Supreme Court, by its Advisory-Opinion jurisdiction.”

Should we have a public debate on the relevance of EACC?

Posted by on 18th February 2016

Categories: Corruption

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) was supposed to be the savior we turn to when all else fails. As the anti-graft body, it’s the institution that we hoped could bring sanity in all the three arms of government in matters corruption, especially after the underwhelming performance of the 11th Parliament and the judiciary’s reputation hanging in the balance with all the controversy surrounding the highest court in the land.

Since its conception under the previous Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), the outfit has done little to inspire confidence. To begin with, the Goldenberg scandal saw the country lose about USD 600million (about 10% of the country’s annual GDP at the time). Kamlesh Pattni, the alleged master mind was cleared eventually and later acquired certificate of good conduct to run as a Member of Parliament.

A few years later, Kenya further lost an estimated USD 30million from the Anglo Leasing scandal and the alleged responsible officers stepped aside only to be reinstated. Some of the alleged key perpetrators walked free because of “lack of evidence”.

Recently, the country once again lost an estimated Kshs. 1.6 billion in the National Youth Service (NYS) saga which saw the resignation of Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Planning and Devolution due to mounting public pressure.

However, the EACC having concluded their investigations cleared the CS, only to issue a statement a month later that they are opening fresh investigations after new details emerged in the form of a 27 page affidavit implicating the former CS. The important question is, wasn’t that what they should have done prior to clearing her? How did their investigations miss the author of this affidavit, yet she’s involved through and through by her own admission?

One therefore wonders whether this is the work of a bungled up cover up or the case is too complex for the anti-corruption body to investigate clearly and consistently. And if it’s the latter then EACC is admitting sheer incompetence and that the commissioners perhaps need help.

In the same breadth, whether the Eurobond money was squandered or utilized is not clear. The opposition has cried foul but has not provided tangible evidence. But again, it is the responsibility of EACC and other relevant institutions to investigate these claims with an aim of shedding light where there’s a misunderstanding and to bring the culprits to book.

The question therefore remains? Is there any use in whistle blowing anymore? Who is not living up to their constitutional mandate? Are mega corruption scandals all about keeping Kenyans busy talking until their personal needs (read: hunger) become too much that they forget about it and only revisit when another similar scandal is revealed? EACC’s failure to act decisively and objectively only serves the lords of impunity.

Impunity not only mocks justice, it impresses upon the masses to disregard the law. It breeds chaos and fertile ground for vigilantes to emerge and thrive. Cartels exist where the law has too many loopholes to be exploited and where justice can be bought and investigations compromised.

We put our trust in the commissioners that they will investigate with the country’s interest in mind and bring to book the culprits. Yet, despite the many times the country expected EACC to step up to the challenge, they only dashed our hopes. Hopes of a better Kenya, hopes of a just Kenya. When will EACC live up to its name?

Perhaps it’s time to discuss openly, truthfully and without malice the relevance of the EACC with regard to its mandate. Should we focus the debate on the constitutional loop holes around the structure of the anti-graft body that interferes with its independence and therefore execution?

And while we seek answers about EACC, the eleventh Parliament continues to underwhelm. That the people charged with the mandate to draft laws in this country seem unperturbed by this trend is cause for worry.

MPs ought to study and do research

Posted by on 15th February 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Law and policy are closely intertwined, therefore the process of making each must be informed by the other. Legislation is an exclusive Parliamentary task, consequently legislators are expected to take time and observe the environment in its entirety before making a law. In this sense, legislative work is tedious and requires dedication.

For a long time now, research in government institutions including Parliament, has been an anathema. This has led to making laws and policies that are out of touch with reality or wholly incompetent legislation. This may explain  why Kenya has so many laws that are at times not effective.

There can be no research without reading and this points to the frustrations of Marakwet East MP, David Bowen. Last week, Hon. Bowen complained on the floor of the House that MPs are not reading Bills which makes it hard to debate them. This also adds to the time taken to deliberate on bills. Additionally, it reinforces the viewpoint that many Parliamentarians are just joy riders.

If Parliamentarians embraced a reading culture and the commitment to undertake research, Kenyans would be feeling the output of the House  on the ground. A Parliament that links legislation making process with the policy needs of a people would be more effective and people driven.

Most MPs may be lazy and even clueless of what is expected of them but there are some who are doing good Job. Take for Instance Irungu Kang’ata, he has always been sponsoring bills that are directly linked to the needs of his constituents. His first Bill, aimed at reforming the Higher Education Loans Board, though it was returned to Parliament by the President, its intentions were brilliant. The second one, in Hon. Kang’ata’s  name, is a Bill that is supposed to reform the coffee and tea sector.

Most of the times, people are attracted to Parliamentary positions due to the aura and power associated to it. Few, if any, are called to serve humanity. Serving humanity is about selflessness, sometimes you burn the midnight oil, occasionally have little time with family and on weekends you skip that meaningless public rally.

Simply, a Parliament that approves Budget proposals without noticing that Eurobond money is not “accounted for” sufficiently, isn’t worth its salt. It isn’t logical at all. A keen eye for detail, in matters parliamentary is important. Now this highlights another point. Whenever, the country suffers poor budgeting and planning, It’s not only the Executive that should be blamed, in fact Parliament should be apportioned the largest blame. In the budget making process Parliamentarians should always make sensible and relevant proposals that will directly help the people they represent.

Finally, it is a challenge for Parliamentarians to spend some more time reading and researching so as to improve their input in Parliamentary business. In the wisdom of David Oglivy, “Ignoring research is as dangerous as a general who ignores decodes of enemy’s signals”.  Does Parliament have what it takes to raise its game?

2016 May Shape or break 11th Parliament’s Legacy

Posted by on 5th February 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

The 11th Parliament may not be Kenya’s favorite House despite its inclusivity. Since its inception in 2013, the National Assembly has been defined by gaffes that range from physical fights to passing pathetic laws. The Senate on the other hand has spent most its time crying wolf and does not have much output to show.

As Parliament resumes business, the National Assembly has on its plate Constitutional laws that must be passed before the August deadline. Some of the pending bills are so monumental that the final legislation may change how Kenyans will perceive the 11th Parliament in the long term. The significant laws include those on Land and the implementation of the “gender rule”.

There are quite a number of laws on land, a subject that divides Kenyans more than any other. Parliament as a house of national dialogue is expected to constitute a legal structure that will answer Kenya’s land question that has persisted since independence, once and for all.

The other window of opportunity for the 11th to restore their honor, is in legislating a law on the implementation of “two thirds gender rule”. Beyond the various preferences by competing groups, the Constitution gave Kenyan women a promissory note of inclusivity. The spirit of Kenya’s Constitution is so uncompromising on matters of equity and equality such that the laws made to implement it must include women sufficiently. In light of this, Parliament has a choice to bury their head in the sand or face the issues head on.

Other bills of interest address the following matters; forests, energy management, petroleum exploration and production, seeds and plants varieties, protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression among others. Will Parliament continue enacting weak legislation or finally rise up to the task and publish rich laws?

In 2016, the notoriety of giving very short notices on public participation ought to end. If Parliament is really willing to include people in governance they must give sufficient time to Kenyans in order to participate in legislation. You will note that some of the legislations which invoke high public interest, Kenyans are given an abrupt notice to submit memoranda. How about Parliament making 2016 an year of adventure, and set up a multi-media approach in dispersing Parliamentary information. If Parliament was effective in communication then the public would flock there whenever there is a sitting on public participation.

In 2015, we heard enough of corruption and mischief stories on Parliament. MPs have the burden of re-earning Kenyans trust. In 2016, they have deadlines to meet and for those who want to be re- elected they have a constituency to gratify.

Finally, in the words of the Bible, Luke 12:48b, Parliamentarians better put at the back of their minds, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Parties: Broken Engine of Progressive Politics

Posted by on 1st February 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

The centrality of political parties in the growth of progressive politics cannot be gainsaid. In democracies political parties are expected to set the standards of good leadership and progressive politics. In a nutshell, they are the drivers of politics and the quality of political parties determines the overall politics in a state. Articles 91 and 92 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, set the threshold for political parties so high in order to prepare them for the respectable job of governing a country, in case they win a General election.

Regrettably, the political class have defied the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, and their wish is to maintain political parties in a ramshackle state. Currently, political parties are not used as institutions of merchandizing sound and concrete ideologies. Instead, they have been hijacked by self-interested individuals to massage the differences of a people as the shortest route to gain popularity and eventually power.

In the recent past, Kenya has witnessed political parties’ indiscipline at its peak.  Members of political parties have been forming political parties while still maintaining the membership of the party that sponsored them in various positions of leadership. This is unheard off and therefore a blatant violation of the law.

The political parties’ honchos and the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP), who are supposed to be prefects of the parties may be accused of tolerating and brooding runaway indiscipline. Errant political party members are hardly disciplined.

Party hopping was legitimized by the 10th Parliament when they amended the Elections Act in 2012. Their main line of argument was that, there is lack of internal democracy and members of political parties should be free to switch their allegiance at will. In hindsight, this claim is true.  For the longest time, most political parties in Kenya have been acting as a sole proprietorship where one person together with their cronies call the shots. In such an environment, fears that, when they don’t like you, they may lock you out are valid.

Fundamentally, political parties’ discipline lies with its members and leadership. It is ironical that most Kenyans over 18 years of age don’t participate in political parties and yet they are primarily meant for them. Enrolment in a political party puts one in a position to dictate what happens therein, and with it the power to shift our politics from personality-driven to ideology-centred politics. Party discipline is difficult to attain if the outfits are not institutionalized based on a specific philosophy.

The National Assembly’s legal affairs committee has expressed its intention to exonerate the rebels who have hopped from the parties that sponsored them to various elective positions by amending the Political Parties Act. If the proposed amendment goes through, it will be a big blow to “principled democracy” and an endorsement to self-interest politics. In the wake of “brown envelope” politics the amendment will only introduce more dishonesty.

In the end, real change depends on individual Kenyans. Political parties have been the most underutilized institutions of governance, why don’t we register as members and start influencing them?

“Addressing Historical Land Injustices in Kenya”- Interview with Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr.

Posted by on 22nd January 2016

Categories: Kenya Consititution People's Shujaaz Awards

Uhuru visits Lamu and issues title deeds to Waitiki’s land squatters. The Kenyatta family gives 2000 acres of land to squatters in Taita Taveta. The two prior statements are recent examples of attempts to address historical land injustices facing Kenya. Given that resolution of historical land injustices remains very emotive is there an attempt to put a framework in place to guide the process? Which institution has the final say on the matter? The National Land Commission was established under Article 67 of the Constitution among other things to seek redress for Historical land injustices. The Commission is supposed to shield the issue of Land from political interference and bring a lasting solution to the question of land in Kenya.

Mzalendo interviewed Sen. Mutula Kilonzo Jr. who has been vocal in Parliament about the resolution of historical injustices on the current state of things and the options available to Kenya ahead of the 2017 elections. Watch the Interview here.

What do you think should be done to address land injustices?