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Fat salaries and CDF make our MPs entitled, unimaginative

 National Assembly during a Parliamentary session on October 6, 2022 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Imagine you are applying for a job. You are aware of the pay and the job description. You actually perform some of the duties you imagine the job entails even before you are hired. You attend fundraisers and contribute handsomely. You seem to like it. You relish the hearty greetings and the warm hugs and embraces as you mingle freely. And you seem to do it well considering how the "ground"- your prospective employer- is receiving you; in rallies you hold to sell your agenda, they are ecstatic. They wildly cheer and clap for you. They speak well of you and your acts of charity and generosity. And your "down-to-earth" demeanour.

Now, you have been given the job and the first order of business has been your loud complaints about your "meagre" pay. They are calling everyone standing in their way ugly names and threatening to take them down. That should rank as the fastest rate of employee dissatisfaction anywhere in the world. What's more, the courts have ruled that the Constituency Development Fund- (by all nature, a slush fund) and the biggest motivator (for seeking the job) besides striking deals in corridors of power is illegal. But you want it back.

As the employer, you wish you could get rid of this employee. Yet doing that is a long, laborious process because once you hire them, you sort of transfer the power to fire to them. Most Kenyans are scratching their heads wondering what to do with the new MPs. Despite the SRC issuing guidelines on the maximum and minimum pay, the MPs want more. MPs could still do what they want if they not stopped. They could even bring back CDF in another format.

An MP's salary is Sh710,000 , one of the highest-paying jobs in Kenya. Yet MPs claim they have been called to serve. This then could graduate to Sh1 million with other numerous allowances - car maintenance and mileage claims, committee sitting allowance. And some Sh100 million is disbursed to the constituency fund annually.

Listen to their outrage and sense of entitlement at being denied special treatment.

"Kenyans do not understand the role of an MP. We are senior people in this country. We can impeach the president, we approve appointments, including SRC's appointment."

Another one added: "Don't condition me to a vehicle of 3,000cc. I am not a primary school child to be dictated to on which car to use."

"MPs are beyond humans," boasted yet another.

"We have the yam and the knife," threatened another.

Truth be told, other than extending bursaries to needy students, for most of the time, CDF has generally degenerated into a massive sunk cost. The elephant in the room is, who holds the MPs to account for misuse of CDF funds?

For most of its 20-year history (with nearly Sh80 billion disbursed) projects were designed and implemented at the whims of the MP - cattle dips, constituency offices, classrooms without teachers and books, dispensaries without nurses nor drugs. Or none at all where money was spent. Yet these, most of the time, are duties of the Executive.

CDF was a stop gap measure after 2002 elections when most of the country felt left behind because of a centralised system of government. It was an equalisation fund. But with the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, many still wonder if its existence is as compelling as when the idea of the fund was mooted by former Ol Kalau MP Muriuki Karue.

It had inherent flaws that have not been resolved. Over time, CDF has become a slush fund for sitting MPs, a pot to dish out favours to loyal constituents and punish those who vote against them. CDF boards were reserved for chums and close relatives and project implementation largely depended on the charity of the MP.

And attempts to make it more open and fairer in law have been thwarted by its stewards. For what role do MPs have other than to legislate and hold the Executive and the Judiciary to account? Essentially, MPs drawing up and implementing projects defeats and abuses the doctrine of separation of powers.

What's more, CDF turns MPs into lazy, unimaginative self-seekers. For as long as the CDF kitty can take care of some of the bills, the MP can while his time away in big offices soliciting tenders and not seeking big impactful projects for his people.

No question, there are good stories out of the CDF, but they are too few to justify its existence. CDF will suffer obsolescence for perpetuating the same things it sought to cure; nepotism, favouritism and skewed allocation of resources.

Mr Kipkemboi is Partnerships and Special Projects Editor, Standard Group

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