MPs must be driven by service to voters

Thursday December 7 2017

The 12th Parliament has not settled down to transact any meaningful business and is unlikely to do so for the rest of the year. Political differences that played out during the election campaigns continue to dog its operations with the opposition National Super Alliance delaying in nominating its members to committees in a calculated move to stall House business.

However, the leadership of Parliament has now closed ranks and is working on proposals to amend the Standing Orders essentially to improve the House operations.

The proposals include expanding the size of the committees to accommodate more members and allow each to sit in at least two of them.

Committees form the basis for parliamentary business under the Constitution.

They play oversight role, scrutinise bills and budgets and advise the House on resolutions to make on issues within given sectors.

However, the committees have been abused and turned into conduits for earning allowances rather than offering services.

Many MPs never really sit in the committees; they only walk in to sign attendance forms to earn allowances and leave without making any contributions, which really amounts to a con game.

Strikingly, the new proposals seek to open the bracket of MPs who can sit in committees and draw allowances.

In other words, it is a way of expanding the base so that all MPs can benefit from the additional cash.

It is not lost on many that the various caps imposed by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission on compensation for MPs have shrunk their earnings and they have been unhappy. This explains why they are keen to explore other options to raise their incomes.

To be sure, committee allowances are capped at Sh80,000 a month.

Amending the Standing Orders is a routine matter that arises every other time, when circumstances demand.

But it should be guided by altruistic motives, not selfish desires that impact negatively on public resources.

Away from the polarising inter-party politics, the current Parliament must act differently.

It must take its works seriously and avoid those manoeuvres designed to benefit MPs and end up pitting them against the public.