Kudos Uhuru for putting brakes on MPs greed, but now come to counties’ aid

Siaya County Governor Cornel Rasanga during an interview at his office. [Collins Oduor, Standard]
Contradictions notwithstanding, the President deserves a pat on the back for vetoing proposed legislation that was intended to usurp and undermine the powers of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) by MPs through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

The insatiable appetite for scarce national resources informed the thought to delink the welfare of parliamentarians and its staff from SRC’s constitutional mandate.

The abortive legislation comes hot on the heels of the defiant PSC’s decision to award the lawmakers Sh250,000 monthly allowance and a questionable and worthless overseas trip for 90 MPs and parliamentary staff. The commission tried in vain to recover the house allowance from the mighty lawmakers as enmity between the institutions ensued and intensified.

Until today, the “infallible” law-making body does not believe the review of salaries and conditions of service for State officers and public servants is the mandate of the SRC. That explains the reason for enlisting the services of their colleagues in the PSC to draft legislation that could have delinked the legislature’s monetary matters from SRC.  

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The foregoing observations pricked and compelled the Head of State to veto the proposed insensitive Bill that could have further bloated the legislators pockets in a nation that is choking in debt, is burdened by a heavy wage bill and grappling unbearably high cost of living that has widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

However, it defeats reason and common sense for the President to veto retrogressive legislation on the one hand and, on the other, endorse reduction of resource allocation to struggling county governments that need finances the most to develop areas previously neglected by successive governments for decades.

Behind that Uhuru’s veto of the Bill, lurks a hitch, the “holier-than-thou and larger than life” monster, the PSC. Until and unless the PSC Act is reviewed, the presidential veto could be a temporary measure if not an exercise in futility for an institution where impunity reigns supreme with the commission doubling up as a rubber-stamp for lawmakers desires that have turned the institution into a cash cow.

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Unlike other statutory commissions, membership of the PSC is drawn from among greedy members of Parliament who are in the habit of introducing and enacting laws to suit their circumstances. Membership of other commissions are recruited from outside the establishment to avoid conflict of interest.

We all agree that Parliament is supreme but it is not above the Constitution that created SRC to look into the welfare of State officers and public servants in general. But it is not lost on us that Parliament has abused that supremacy by being a master of blackmail and threats of those who question its infamous decisions that so far include the review of resource allocations to counties in this financial year.

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Lawmakers, for instance, were stone silent on the governors' campaign for more funds and enhanced autonomy. Instead, senators have been campaigning to micromanage the devolved units in their areas of jurisdiction. It is not surprising therefore that the so-called standoff between the National Assembly and the Senate over the allocation to counties was the proverbial shedding of “crocodile tears”.

The executive and the Senate abandoned the devolved units at the hour of need, signaling a possible looming demise of counties as happened to the regional governments in the hands of the then House of Representatives.

Walk the talk

Mr President, we are asking you to walk the talk now and live by your word. Counties’ survival in this turbulent society largely depends on the goodwill of the executive and not the two legislative chambers that have failed to lived up to their vows. 

The Senate and National Assembly wear tags of competitors against the county governments. That should not be the case. The roles of State organs, Parliament included, and constitutional offices are supposed to be harmonious and complimentary.

Events of the recent past paint completely a different picture. That is a cause for concern more so for the counties that stare at a bleak future with insensitive leaders at the helm.

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Counties are viewed as a threat to powers that parliamentarians wielded in the yesteryear and before the onset of devolution. Any disaster that could wipe out devolution from the Constitution would be celebrated by powerful people in and outside government opposed to it with the pomp never seen here before just like a glass of champagne was tossed at the death of the East African Community in 1977 by no lesser person than then powerful Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

Wajiku would be the biggest casualty if devolution crumbles. But then she has herself to blame for perennially choosing insensitive leaders whose preoccupation has been power and money, scarcity notwithstanding.

Mr Rasanga is the Governor of Siaya.

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