The strikingly similar trait among the political elite is insatiable greed for money and lavishness. When it is not MPs making demands for new benefits and travel splurge, then it is the Members of the County Assembly seeking all sorts of remunerations. Hardly, however, do they ever talk of wealth creation. Yet, that should be the singular challenge for leaders at both levels of government.
This time round, MCAs from at least five counties have combined forces to demand for housing allowance, citing a court ruling that stated last year that all State officers were entitled to that benefit. What they have conveniently not stated is the context of the ruling, obviously since they want to use it to pursue self-interest.
The MCAs in Nairobi, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Garissa, Kakamega and Murang’a counties argue that they deserve proper compensation for the work they do at the grassroots. On balance, however, MCAs cannot complain of being underpaid.
If a proper audit was conducted on the work they do, it would not be surprising that they are overpaid and enjoy trappings of power that they do not deserve.
It is not lost that they have been plotting to take charge of the cash allocated to wards for development, which, if they were to gain access to, would be disastrous as it would open doors for pilferage.
MCAs’ aggression for cash is informed by the behaviour of MPs, who have made it their business to award themselves all sorts of benefits when they so wish. In recent months, the MPs caused an uproar when they surreptitiously awarded themselves a Sh250,000 housing allowance yet they already benefit from a lucrative mortgage scheme that is heavily subsidised. In addition, they have demanded to be given accommodation when they are Nairobi while at the same time they earn tidy sums from mileage claims even when they never travel to their constituencies.
All these have bred a culture of exploitation, with the politicians scheming to rip off taxpayers at the slightest of opportunity. Paradoxically, professionals like doctors, nurses, teachers, university lecturers and even public servants are poorly paid, with the government consistently arguing it lacks resources to raise salaries.
Huge salaries for the political class and their acolytes have contributed to the ballooning wage bill that crowds out resources for other services. Indeed, it is absurd that the MCAs now fighting for new allowances are the same ones who complain of inadequate resources being allocated to the counties.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the National Treasury must reject machinations to give new allowances to MCAs. Not when the economy is struggling and everyone else is tightening the belt. The house allowance demand is unjustified.