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Legislators’ Russia jaunt a blot on Speaker J.B. Muturi’s record

By Ken Opalo | Published Sat, July 21st 2018 at 00:00, Updated July 20th 2018 at 18:54 GMT +3
Senator Millicent Omanga attended the Croatia-England semi-final. [Courtesy]

 

Is there a more poignant illustration of the moral bankruptcy of our leaders than having legislators spend taxpayer shillings to attend the just-concluded World Cup in Russia?

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The jaunt was apparently organised by members of the National Assembly sports committee and paid for by Parliament.

One of the legislators who went to Russia claimed they were on official duty – benchmarking on how to organise such big events.

The excuse is as absurd as it is morally repugnant. In a country where millions languish in poverty, where farmers are yet to be paid for their maize, and where roads, schools and hospitals are struggling from state neglect, you would expect elected leaders to be less cavalier in the manner in which they spend public money.

Even if we took these legislators at their word, their “benchmarking” trip is still patently nonsensical. If indeed they were interested in learning how to host the World Cup, the people they should have sent to Russia would have been technocrats in the relevant ministries.

More broadly, the Russia fiasco is yet another illustration of the complete failure of Parliament’s leadership. As a separate and co-equal branch of government, Parliament has the power to be a core player in the formulation and implementation of public policy.

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Individual legislators have a constitutional and, dare I say, moral duty to voice and address needs and concerns of their constituents.

The fact that our legislators appear to spend time plotting to steal or waste public funds reflects poorly on the Speaker of the National Assembly and the leaders of majority and minority. As the leaders of the institution, these men have a duty to set the tone and rules of acceptable conduct.

This is not the first time Parliament’s leadership has failed us. Speaker J B Muturi’s office has consistently failed to engender an institutional environment in which legislators can add value to our quest for economic development and socio-cultural transformation.

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Despite their significant constitutional powers, our legislators continue to make little meaningful input in the making of public policy, providing checks and balances vis-à-vis the executive, or delivering on development projects.

Their idea of leadership involves flaunting and squandering their ill-gotten wealth. Their idea of public service involves not empowerment of Kenyans, but cultivation of a culture of dependency by giving out handouts. They are as morally and intellectually bankrupt in their private lives as they are in public service.

Every now and then I have conversations with friends in which we try to understand how Kenya can have leaders who are almost uniformly mediocre. Why do the men and women in public office not understand their roles on the conspicuous stage of history?

Invariably, we tend to converge on the fact that most of them have neither a sense of history, nor of their place in the world. For most of them, life is about the here and now. That is the only way grown men and women with their own families can keep stealing from dying children without the slightest bit of remorse.

- The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University

 

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