Upon gaining the new Constitution in 2010 one key area that was overlooked was the civic education of Kenyans who are now guided by it. Like it has been said before Kenya ails not from lack of laws, rather from the absence of the political good-will to implement them. This absence of political good-will is fed by the mismatch between Kenyans’ expectations and the mandate of elected representatives as outlined in the Constitution, and this mismatch is as a result of the electorate not fully understanding the roles of the different arms of government.
To give context, Mzalendo recently released the Annual Parliamentary Scorecard that analysed the plenary performance of members of the National Assembly and the Senate in the year 2019. One of the comments that kept coming up as Kenyans interacted with the analysis was that an MP doesn’t need to speak in Parliament if they’re pushing for development on the ground. In addition to this, most said that those who spoke in the House just make noise anyway and do nothing productive.
For most, a productive MP is one who brings development to his/her constituents in the form of better roads, better or new school infrastructure, affordable education, better hospitals and safer neighbourhoods. The issue however with gauging an MP’s performance on this scale is that these are among the Executive’s (at both county and national level) deliverables. Where development of this nature is concerned, a member of Parliament is tasked with providing an enabling policy and legal environment and to provide oversight over the national and county governments to ensure that Wanjiku’s socio-economic needs are addressed.
A big portion of Kenyans is fixated on the “we can’t eat laws” mentality failing to see the opportunities that lie in legislation. A great example would be these past four months that Kenya has been dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. Kenyans should remember that while President Uhuru Kenyatta has on different occasions given economic cushioning directives, they could only come to effect after Parliament provided a legal framework for them. Furthermore, the question of accountability of the funds being allocated to counties and different state organs can effectively be addressed by Parliament through their oversight role.
As it stands there is a stalemate in the Senate on the allocation formula as Senators fight to protect their respective counties from marginalization in the distribution of resources. If the Senate gets the sharing formula wrong vulnerable Kenyan will bear the brunt of the pandemic as infections seem to be on the rise in the wake of strained hospitals. This allocation formula in question seeks to solve the issue of county capacity and preparedness in fighting the virus and preventing deaths. One, therefore, need not overemphasize the crucial role of Parliament in flattening the curve.
The National Assembly, on the other hand, faces the important task of filling the vacant office of the Auditor General whose role is so keeping public finance books in check. Several experts have warned that the prevailing circumstances provide optimum conditions for the corrupt to steal from Kenyans. It would be unfortunate if the gap left by former Auditor-General Edward Ouko provided lee-way for corruption to take place as Kenyans fight for their lives.
Having all this in mind, it is important for constant, consistent citizen sensitization on the law to take place for Kenyans to be able to hold their leaders to account. An informed citizen is an empowered citizen.