Parliament is on the spot after the courts ordered members to refund Sh2.7 billion they illegally allocated themselves in form of house allowances.
Judges ordered the Parliamentary Service Commission to recover the money within a year. According to the High Court, the commission had no powers to allocate Sh250,000 monthly to every legislator without the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s approval.
The hefty allowances, paid for 26 months since 2018, saw MPs earn Sh104 million each illegally. Surprising as it may be, the Thursday High Court ruling yet again fired up the fear that the Parliament is becoming a symbol of a greedy political culture. Real or imagined, this perception can only erode trust in this important arm of government.
Various controversies have dogged Parliament in the past, including how legislators were using House procedures to extort cash from people summoned to appear before committees.
Not long ago, the House became a laughing stock after rogue members received bribes to shoot down a report on contraband sugar that had made its way into the country.
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The bribery claims, at some point, led the Powers and Privileges committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi, to invite the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate.
Besides this, there have been brazen cases where some MPs make false mileage claims, plunder CDF and engage in needless foreign trips to pocket allowances. There have also been cases where committees hold many sittings to attract allowances with no substantive debate.
It is open secret that Kenyan MPs are among the world’s best-paid lawmakers. Thus, it behoves them to stay true to their oath of office.
According to the Constitution, Parliament manifests the diversity of the nation, represents the will of the people, and exercises their sovereignty. The august House has an obligation to act in the best interest of the country and in a manner that inspires public confidence.
Parliament and indeed all arms of government must be beyond reproach. Going forward, we urge legislators to be considerate and selfless. Simply delighting in unrealistic financial advantages reflects leadership failure of a monumental proportion.