By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)
Did you know that each parliamentary committee receives approximately 60 million ksh for foreign travel?
If each committee receives foreign travel budgetary allocation of 60 million shillings and there are approximately 27 parliamentary committees (excluding ad hoc committees) that make a total of that makes approximately 1.6 billion ksh for foreign travel alone in plane tickets, accommodation, per diems etc.
How does this break down in terms of allocation per individual MP? Well, each committee has approximately 11 members (except the house business committee which has 27 members) and each committee receives a total of 60 million kshs, this breaks down to an annual foreign travel allocation of almost 5.5 million kshs per MP and of course that allocation per MP doubles if the MP sits on more than one committee (list of parliamentary committees and who sits on them).
Another problematic issue is that all the committees receive the same monetary allocation for foreign travel regardless of whether the mandate of committee requires extensive travel or not. No distinction is made between mandates and need to travel, this means that committees that deals with let say catering or the library, which you would expect would travel less, would receive the exact travel same allocation as the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, which by virtue of its mandate would be expected to travel more.
According press reports this fiscal year 2011/2012 alone, the allocation for foreign travel by committees has trebled to 491 million kshs from 162 million kshs in 2010/2011. The clerks office received an allocation of 35 million kshs, for foreign travel, the speaker’s office 9 million kshs, and the parliamentary service commission has been allocated 30 million kshs. In addition, the Parliamentary Service Commission recently increased MPs foreign travel allowance by 20 per cent, after MPs complained about the high cost of travel.
Unfortunately, there is no way to confirm what all this money is spent on, whether it is effectively spent etc. As long as there is government expenditure on foreign travel it is important for there to be proper accountability mechanisms that tracking all aspects of expenditure on foreign (and domestic travel) i.e. travel to from work, travel on parliamentary business, foreign travel, committee travel. These should be made public so that taxpayers can assess if foreign travel is value for taxpayer shillings or a mode of self- enrichment for MPs.