MPs’ greed contradicts their role as defenders of our sovereignty

The trend of MPs seeking unlawful and unjustified emoluments started way back in 2003 after Narc came to power.

Tuesday February 23 2016

President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania addresses a joint sitting of Parliament during his state visit to Kenya on October 6. The key motivation for having the Salaries and Remuneration Commission was to rein in MPs’ attempts to privatise the country’s resources, opines Mr Morris Odhiambo. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania addresses a joint sitting of Parliament during his state visit to Kenya on October 6. The key motivation for having the Salaries and Remuneration Commission was to rein in MPs’ attempts to privatise the country’s resources, opines Mr Morris Odhiambo. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Reports that Members of Parliament want to circumvent the law so that they can irregularly pay themselves more, are, as usual, irritating, but not surprising.

The trend of MPs seeking unlawful and unjustified emoluments started way back in 2003 after Narc came to power.

What aided and abetted this trend was the perceived weakness of the Executive to check the appetites of elected leaders misusing their powers.

Different agendas and internal disagreements among the key leaders weakened the Narc coalition.

Just a few months into 2003, the Kibaki administration demonstrated its major weakness; that of kowtowing to every whim of Parliament.

GREED BREEDS MORE GREED

Parliamentarians, on the other hand, like the good old greedy politicians they are, took every opportunity to raid the national coffers.

Because greed breeds only more greed, soon Parliamentarians were among the most highly paid State officers in Kenya.

But what is the background to all this? Over the years, the Executive had been overbearing, neutering all the other institutions of government.

The National Assembly for many years was simply an appendage of the Executive. It simply rubber-stamped what the Executive wanted.

Then came the wave of parliamentary reforms that created institutions such as the Parliamentary Service Commission and enabled the National Assembly to have its own budget.

These reforms were an attempt to free Parliament from the control of the Executive.

The envisaged benefits of reform were to enable a more rational legal and policy-making regime and ensure that Parliament plays its three traditional roles — representation, oversight, and law making — effectively.

The Parliamentary Service Commission Act provided for Parliament to form a tribunal every time MPs desired to have their emoluments reviewed.

This provision has enabled MPs to decide at every juncture what they earn.

There is no doubt, however, that all this has been done against the Constitution.

The problem is that these actions have never been successfully contested in the courts of law.

A challenge mounted by civil society in 2008 was so delayed that by the time judgment was rendered, public interest in the matter had waned.

The courts robbed the public of an opportunity to rein in the legislators. MPs have since continued to illegally benefit from the public coffers by increasing their benefits arbitrarily.

SRC'S FAILURE

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is a monumental failure and living testimony of all that has gone wrong with the post-2010 constitutional bodies put in place to protect our sovereignty.

The key motivation for having the SRC was, in fact, to rein in MPs’ attempts to privatise the country’s resources.

There were valid concerns, as well, that the salary structure in the public service had for many years been distorted, hence the need for a body that would bring back some order.

In 2013, SRC started well by publishing recommended salaries for public officers.

The potential MPs who were contesting then protested and the complaint continued after the March 4 election, prompting SRC to abandon all pretence of independence by agreeing to be bound by political agreements.

The Constitution is categorical that elections are held every fifth year of the life of Parliament.

The key words here are “fifth year”. More specifically, on the terms of Parliament, Article 102(1) states: “The term of each house of parliament expires on the date of the next General Election”. So, why do MPs want to go against this law? Simple: Because of impunity and greed.

They are doing it because they can. Members of the current Parliament assume that nothing will stand in their way to the public coffers.

And this is the biggest tragedy: Worse than the corruption and impunity perpetrated by the Executive is the fact that MPs are supposed to be our representatives.

The only heartening thing is that the MPs’ latest show of greed and impunity will not go unchallenged.

The writer is the president of the National Civil Society Congress. [email protected]

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