12th Parliament most corrupt, but electorate also need to do better

Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Today marked the end of the 12th Parliament, the second in the era of devolution, which was thought would improve the quality of life for Kenyans because of multiple layers of representation, starting at the grassroots.

So many things can be said about the 12th Parliament; unfortunately, most of them are bad, for anecdotal evidence shows that this was probably the most corrupt – in the wider sense of the word – lot of representatives in Kenya’s modern history.

As they walked out of the Chamber yesterday, they left behind a disillusioned citizenry reeling under the burden of high cost of living, which they caused since most of the Bills they passed increased taxation and subsequently the cost of basic goods and services.

As if that was not enough, the 416 members - 349 from the National Assembly and 67 from the Senate - will get a “severance pay” of Sh2.2 billion shillings, from the overburdened taxpayers.

It would not be a lie to write that the 12th Parliament made the Executive a part of the Legislature inasmuch as it surrendered its autonomy to the Executive, thus the latter could dictate how they legislated, and they were comfortable with that arrangement.

Both in and outside the Chambers, they would vehemently defend the Bills they had passed even as Kenyans complained that such oppressive legislation was not good for the economy, and the ramifications would be felt for long, by the underprivileged.

They are leaving behind an economy in tatters to hit the campaign trail, a place they have been on for the past three or so years, making promises and blaming one another, instead of performing their core oversight role of putting the Executive in check.

While outside the Chambers, their loyalties were divided between the president and the deputy. In the Chambers when fighting for higher allowances and perks, they were a cohesive lot, all ganging up to fleece Kenyan taxpayers and feeling no shame about it.

Data from the Controller of Budget, for instance, showed that from March to June 2021, members of the 12th Parliament spent Sh703.1 million on foreign trips, flagged as the highest quarterly spending since 2013, when Kenya started making public amount spent on travel. Consequently, the amount spent on air tickets, accommodation and allowances rose 14 times from the Sh49.87 million lawmakers spent on foreign trips in the quarter to March.

That is one of the reasons why the 12th Parliament and corruption are synonymous, for members invariably used local travel and overseas trips to boost their pay, as their voters wallow in poverty.

Voters might say good riddance, but the behaviour of the 12th Parliament should be a wake-up call for them to realise that their civic duty might start at the polling booth, but it does not end there, and that the Constitution provides ways through which they can punish an errant representative before the end of their term.