When I heard MPs threatening to go on strike over Constituency Development Fund, I prayed that they carry out their threat so that Kenyans can exercise their right of recall.
A fitting scenario that came to mind was the scene in the movie 'Dirty Harry', where Inspector Callahan dares a thug to a gun fight with the famous line, 'go ahead punk, make my day'.
My Inspector Callahan moment was inspired by the temerity of a pampered and overpaid group demanding to access a fund that has been flagged by numerous audit reports as a slush fund. At a time many Kenyans are suffering from hard economic times, I expected MPs to be sensitive to the plight of their constituencies rather than issuing threats like dockside bullies.
Besides the bad manners and poor sense of timing, the threat by MPs was especially exasperating because for a group that has only been in office for three months, it seem to have mastered a knack for jerking our chain. Kenyans, for instance, are still smarting over suggestion by a first-term MP to remove the presidential term limit.
In polite Supreme Court legalese, such hogwash would be dismissed as a classic case of hot air from an overzealous rookie. After 59 years of experimenting with democracy, the merits of a two-term presidential term limit is a settled argument that is now part of our proud political tradition. That a politician is still haggling over the matter is engaging in time-wasting revisionism.
My other beef with our blackmailing MPs stems from disaffection over vetting of Cabinet secretaries. As the first and most important assignment of a new Parliament, Kenyans expected the vetting committee to step up to the plate to select a Cabinet of good character.
Never failing to disappoint, however, the vetting committee proceeded with speed to approve all the candidates nominated by the executive including many with serious integrity issues. As a result of this let down, Kenyans find themselves with an Executive that lacks requisite moral authority to lead.
At a time when mobs are out in the street looting and mugging law abiding taxpayers, Kenyans needed an Executive of high integrity fighting in their corner.
Public outrage over the CDF saga has to be seen against this backdrop of disappointing legislative performance. Not only have MPs ignored basic tenets of our democracy, their performance of primary legislative duties has been less than stellar. The CDF saga is particularly trying for a number of reasons.
First and as pointed out by courts since 2015, MPs cannot manage CDF because that would be the equivalent of a football player insisting on being the referee, VAR and linesman in the same match. That parliamentarian are still insisting to manage the fund after seven years of rejection by Kenyan courts leaves one wondering what part of the principle of separation of powers is rocket science.
Equally uninspiring is the amateurish way they have gone about legalising the fund. They tried to change the name of the fund from CDF to NG-CDF hoping to hoodwink the public that a rose by another name is not a rose. Luckily the ruse did not impress the Supreme Court which upheld rulings by lower courts that a development fund managed by MPs offends the principle of separation of powers.
Undeterred, however, Parliament’s eureka moment was to introduce a bill to entrench CDF in the Constitution hoping to protect the fund from further challenge. Trying to be clever by half, they overlooked that even a constitution cannot be a hideout for a law that offends fundamental principles of liberal democracy and such a law will be successfully challenged in court within no time.
In their calculation, MPs are no doubt counting on public support for a fund that is used to finance many noble projects such as bursaries for needy children. However, while the nobility of the funded project is without a doubt, the fund does not have to be managed by Parliament, especially when it violates the Constitution.
To meet both the needs of the citizens and the Constitution all that is necessary is to tweak the Act so that the fund resides at either national or county governments. That MPs persist in demanding control of the fund despite its unconstitutionality suggests they are driven by self rather than national interests.
-Mr Githieya is a political and economic Analyst. [email protected]