A few days before the lockdown, a lithe yellow-yellow chick in a blood-red miniskirt had been gulping copious amounts of wine at a popular pub in Kilimani, Nairobi.
She was on her third bottle when a voluble MP walked in as the clock nosed towards 10pm. He threw her another bottle and shortly, she was dancing to a football match on the big screen.
Drama started when the bill came: “A beer shouldn’t cost more than Sh200. Why sell beer for Sh250? Wine at the local shop is Sh1,000. Why sell it for Sh3,000 a bottle?” The MP whined to this writer. “You think MPs have money?
My brother, we are living from hand to mouth. I am not the man you knew a long time ago. Politics has totally messed me up. Totally!” he lamented.
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Recently, Parliament passed the Parliamentary Pensions Bill to cushion ‘retired’ MPs from languishing in poverty. The windfall which will see former MPs who served two terms earning Sh100,000 as monthly pension for life made Kenyans see red.
But the reality is that many ex-MPs are going through a rough financial patch after leaving office and they can’t wait for the cash. And much as Kenyans are upset, the Bill proposed by Minority Leader John Mbadi, is awaiting Presidential assent to become law.
But is it true that politics does not pay? Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito’s life is instructive on how former MPs can quickly slide into penury.
Before joining politics, Kizito was running several successful businesses — until he joined politics.
“My brother, being in parliament is expensive. People come to you with so many problems as their MP. In the end, you spend so much money, you end up with nothing. Being an MP is also time-consuming, so you have no time to take care of your own money-making ventures,” laments Kizito.
Besides former MPs, incumbents are not having it easy either. Take Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
Two months ago, Mputhia Advocates gave nod to Keysian Auctioneers to recover rent arrears from the legislator accumulated for about 29 months - since January 2018. Kuria was facing auction over Sh7.25 million in rent arrears.
The same fate befell Vihiga Senator George Khaniri, who recently had his property auctioned over a Sh7 million loan. Khaniri’s property was advertised in the dailies as ‘prime residential property in Donholm Phase 8, Nairobi County.’
The auction notice further read: “We have been duly instructed by our principals. We shall sell by public auction the property described herein together with all developments erected there on 25 July 2017, registered in the name of George Munyasa Khaniri. The property is situated in Donholm Phase 8 with one residential block of flats generating a rental income of Sh255,000 per month.”
It is so painful to be auctioned when your payslip reads zero, meaning there is nothing to deduct.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, says most Kenyan MPs are surviving on overdrafts.
“Some MPs are living along River Road,” claims Kaluma. “You hear of MPs being assaulted in places they should not be found.
Broke MPs share an SQ at Kilimani, others live on River Road
If you don’t have another source of income, you have to use magic, including raiding CDF for cash
I once dropped a colleague at a residential unit in Kilimani, only to find three MPs squatting in a servant’s quarter on double-decker beds like high school boys in dormitories,” Kaluma disclosed.
Kaluma explained that even though being called mheshimiwa sounds prestigious, he is certain that several MPs could be taking home a paltry Sh1,000 at the end of the month. So, where does all the Sh1 million in gross salary go to? Kaluma explains:
“Most waheshimiwa have committed their salaries to mortgages and other loans” and are generally broke after taxation, “yet they have given so much to serving Kenyans at the expense of their own financial health.”
Two-time Karachuonyo MP, Engineer James Rege, who is currently the chairman of Ketraco, says he used to send Sh5,000 to every funeral and there would be about 30 funerals in a weekend.
“That’s Sh150,000 every week. In a month that adds up to Sh600,000. Then there are harambees every week as well, where I would send Sh50,000; sometimes you have to contribute to three or more harambees in a week,” explains Rege. He adds that there are also special and touching cases from constituents in need of cash that required that he makes payment immediately from his pocket.
“If you do your calculation, in a month, I was spending almost three times my salary as an MP. I never used even a single shilling of my salary as MP. It all went back to the people. No one goes to parliament to make money. If you get to that House, you will end up spending your money instead. But if you are committed to helping people, then that’s a worthy cause,” says Rege.
So broke are some MPs that one legislator used to pick weekly stipends dished out in tranches of Sh100,000 to Sh 150,000 every Friday from a wealthy political operative. The rich man then suggested that the MP’s wife and kids stay at his expansive home for the weekends as the MP went back to the constituency. The MP acquiesced. The wife never left. The MP’s weekly pocket money also increased to Sh300,000 every Friday. The wife was finally released to the MP’s matrimonial home after five months.
A Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) finance employee revealed to The Nairobian that many MPs are on zero salary. “They would rather eat and drink at the cafeteria in parliament as they’ll either sign for the bills, or get bought drinks by wealthier colleagues.”
Most MPs also avoid public bars to keep off leeches who think MPs are cash cows.
“Believe me, if parliament provided accommodation, most MPS would sleep there and never venture out of parliament’s precincts,” he says.