Is Parliament Abdicating its Oversight Role?

Posted by on 10th November 2019

Categories:   Uncategorized

“Economy: Going gets tougher for Kenyans,” read the front page of the Tuesday 29th October 2019 Daily Nation copy. A headline that has contradicted several statements by the government that were meant to assure Kenyans of “economic growth” despite massive lay-offs and steeper tax burdens by the day. With the 2019 census figures that put Kenya’s population at 47.6 million, each Kenyan owes Sh 130, 349 against the Sh 6.5 billion public debt. The raising of the debt ceiling to Sh 9 trillion could bring the indebtedness of every Kenyan to Sh 189, 218 if the National Treasury borrows an additional Sh 2.5 trillion.

These worrisome details have rendered Kenyans helpless as Parliament continuously okays Treasury’s massive borrowing despite public outcry and expert warnings. Couple that with admissions of Parliament’s failure from the likes of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Suba South MP John Mbadi, it is evident that the country is headed down a slippery slope.

Parliament is now on the spot for under-delivering on its oversight and representative mandate, constantly passing legislation that does not mirror public interest. Efforts by a few Senators who sought Treasury’s rationale behind the Public Finance Management regulations did not yield much as the majority of the House at the end voted in favour of raising the debt ceiling. Going by the sentiments shared by most proponents of the raised ceiling, the government intends to borrow loans with lower interest rates in order to retire the expensive ones that are worsening the ballooning public debt.

Therein lies the problem with our Parliament. The House has adopted a reactive rather than proactive approach to pertinent issues. While indeed it is true that the public debt is going higher at worrying rates, it is the same Parliament that has had a hand in the current situation the country has found itself in. Instead of imposing conditions on the Executive and its spending excitement, Parliament has many times passed legislation that has been questioned by experts. As it stands, the Executive has managed to overreach its mandate, invade the Parliament and take advantage of favourable numbers to pass legislation that hasn’t been in the interest of Wanjiku.

Even Chief Justice David Maraga’s outrage points to an Executive that is taking advantage of its powers to weaken other arms of the government. Whether the challenges facing the judiciary are on the basis of settling scores or not, Parliament should be impartial and seriously consider the issues raised by the Chief Justice. It would be a huge shame to see a Parliament that frequently debates on fighting corruption not defend the very institution that is supposed to bring criminals to book.

Through their oversight, legislative and representation, Parliament has all the power to deliver change to Kenyans. Passing of unfavorable legislation shouldn’t be normalized since the effects of doing so have long term dire consequences. MPs should comply with the Constitution, put personal and political interests aside and instead champion for their constituents’ interests. MPs have the duty to listen and consult with experts to advice the decisions they make on the floor of the House.

In the wake of all this debt ceiling conversation in between the BBI report anticipated release, MPs should self-evaluate and remember why they were elected or nominated in office. As it is right now, Wanjiku is getting a raw deal from this relationship with her representatives.