Whichever way one looks at them, Kenyan parliamentarians are grotesquely obnoxious. They are the embodiment of greed, myopia, disdain for the rule of law, insensitivity, and everything wrong with this country.
Hardly had the dust on their demand for a house allowance of Sh250,000 settled than they were at it again; this time seeking a night allowance of Sh18,000. Yet more nauseating were reports that House Speaker Justin Muturi had come to their defence, advancing the ridiculous argument that paying MPs night allowance will boost their morale and solve the quorum hitches in the house.
If a monthly salary and perks in excess of Sh1 million, car grants worth Sh5 million, a medical insurance worth Sh10 million, mortgages, mileage and sitting allowances cannot motivate MPs, an additional Sh18,000 will not. To be fair, such individuals do need motivation, it would be better if they were all placed in lunatic asylums.
The 12th parliament holds the dubious distinction of being the most inept and rumbustious only when deliberating how to fleece public coffers. Because men are more predisposed to corruption than women, and MPs have the wherewithal to force through unsavoury legislation, that explains male MPs’ propensity for becoming misogynistic; so much that despite a constitutional stipulation, male MPs have frustrated efforts to actaulise the two thirds gender representation. With more women in parliament, it is possible we could have lucid moments and debates in the house.
When Muturi first became the House Speaker in 2013, he gave the impression of a stern administrator ready to whip both sides of the house into line, and that was while the battle lines had been drawn following a contested election. In 2015, MPs planned a censure motion tabled by Kibwezi MP Patrick Musimba against Muturi for standing in their way, and damn if they did not succeed in recruiting him to their side. Today, he is their defender per excellence in whatever undertaking.
At the time, Muturi had complained about MPs using committees as avenues for soliciting for bribe, coercion, and privately interacting with people under investigation. To MPs, this was a slur. While under the commonwealth it is incumbent upon the Speaker to remain impartial in a house occupied by both government and opposition legislators, Muturi has been anything but impartial.
It was not impartiality when he once scolded Kibera MP Kenneth Okoth that Parliament “is not Kiberia”, or when he allowed the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 to sail through while MPs were literary fighting in the house. Collectively, the 12th parliament has failed the country. It is an assortment of individuals good only at doctoring investigation reports after being bribed, a vindictive parliament that fights the Judiciary, starving it of funds for standing up to MPs.
It is a parliament that would rather cripple SRC for attempting to trim it avarice than seek to increase the minimum wage for suffering Kenyans. It is a parliament so myopic it could not foresee that the imposition of 8 percent levy on fuel products would double the cost of living. Ours is a parliament that sanctions importation of aflatoxin laden maize while farmers in the Rift Valley beseech the government to buy their maize stocks about to go to waste for lack of a market.
The possibility that the Thirdway Alliance’s “Punda Amechoka” push for a referendum will go through offers hope. There is enough anger and frustration to goad the public into unanimously going for the proposals that would see a drastic reduction in the number of elected representatives. There have been times I fantasised; imaging MPs forced to line up at Uhuru Park, each to receive ten strokes of the cane from members of the public. They might be hard of hearing, but not so feeling; especially with their soft bodies from easy living.
Reducing representation from 416 to 147 as well as capping the salaries of MPs at Sh300000 will reduce the wage bill by a big margin. It is abuse of privilege to pay MPs millions of shillings for appearing in the house three days in a week while others only make technical appearances.
The true productive cadre of workers; doctors, lecturers, teachers and nurses, among others, have to stage industrial action to get any pay rise, yet here are lazybones wallowing in tax payers’ money.
However, while a referendum is probable, the composition of IEBC and its financial health are not reassuring. At least four Commissioners and the Chief Executive Officer have left. If IEBC were to call for a referendum, it is possible that given our love for litigation, those opposed to a referendum in the belief it would disadvantage them can stymie the exercise through injunctions.
Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The Standard. [email protected]