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Legislators' push to be paid Sh3.3b for no work outrageous

EDITORIAL
By The Standard | February 9th 2017

You cannot put it past our Members of Parliament to attempt to reap where they did not sow.

Members of the 11th Parliament have ganged up to demand a whopping Sh3.3 billion from the Treasury as compensation for eight months covering the period from September 2017 to March 2018, when the legislators are convinced their five-year mandate ends. It is amazing that for individuals who have held all other laws in contempt except where their welfare is concerned, they should put up such a claim.

This demand should not be sanctioned. The rationale behind pay is to compensate individuals for work rendered, which is why pay for no work done is repugnant and immoral. When Kenyan teachers went on strike for over one month in 2015, they were denied pay for that period in which they had withdrawn their labour; it cannot be any different with Members of Parliament.

MPs might feel their case is special, that they have an irrevocable five-year contract with the Kenyan people. But while that is true, it is negated by the demand of the new constitution that elections must be held every five years on the second Tuesday of August. Thus, it is not a breach of contract for them to demand compensation, but a constitutional requirement that must be taken into step without unnecessary, even illegal conditions.

With the kind of ignominy associated with the eleventh Parliament; its inability to meet deadlines and pass motions of import to the citizens and the spectre of physical fights in the chambers when they were elected to reason with each other to reach consensus on important national issues, it is a mark of a misplaced sense of entitlement to what MPs do not deserve in the first place. With their dismal showing, MPs' pay has not been commensurate with their output, so asking for Sh3.3 billion ex gratia payment should outrage all right-thinking Kenyans.

Doctors have been on strike for over two months now. They were recently joined by lecturers and even when nurses downed their tools, Members of Parliament did not raise a finger. Millions of Kenyans are being ravaged by food and water scarcity but Parliament has kept mum.

It is untenable that MPs should have the audacity to ask for such emoluments in the midst of this screaming national shame. As legislators, it cannot have escaped them that the economy is in the red, with the Government barely able to meet its budgetary objectives.

Borrowing from local banks to cover a budget deficit pushed interest rates through the ceiling until a cap was placed on interest rates last year, but even that has not put the economy on a recovery path. This week, the Government said it plans to sell a 12-year infrastructure bond worth Sh30 billion. For all intents and purposes, this country has been under parliamentary dictatorship for the simple reason that Parliament has placed itself on a pedestal higher than all other institutions and is accountable to no one.

That tiff with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) in 2014 when SRC attempted to regulate MPs' salary but met resistance seems to have given them airs. Parliament has since then exhibited disdain for all national institutions. It has defied the supreme law and the Judiciary which, legally, is the national arbitrator. There must be a stop to these excesses; enough is enough.

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