“Greed is good.” So once declared Ivan Boesky, a famous (or infamous) American multi-millionaire stock broker who prospered in New York’s Wall Street during the 80s stock market boom. In life everything is temporary, even for finance gurus like Boesky, who ended up in jail after being convicted of illegal insider trading and banned for life from ever trading again in financial securities.
Some will agree with the philosophy of Boesky and his fellow financial pirates that greed is the “force that captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit; that greed in all its forms: greed for life, for love, for knowledge and – yes – for money, has driven the upward surge of mankind.” Damn.
Public service has always been seen as antithetical to raw monetary greed. Alas, not in Kenya.
Nominated MP David ole Sankok, who always dresses in strange, green janitor-style outfits, the other day dramatically introduced to the world the phenomenon he called slay queens in our Parliament when contributing to the Gender Bill debate.
Never mind that his description greatly infuriated women MPs, partly because, I suspect, he was not being gender-inclusive by neglecting to admit that slay kings were even more plentiful in the same Parliament.
The implied connotation of that little parliamentary sideshow does not need to be elaborated.
The Gender Bill is not the issue here.
The topic is the Parliamentary Service Bill (2018), a true piece of art the Boesky types would admire and which was tabled on Thursday by the National Assembly’s Legal committee chairman William Cheptumo.
A rather humourless guy, he would interrupt his speech to scold the media for – yes, you guessed it – “misrepresenting” the bill’s remarkable contents such as rent-free houses, government-fuelled cars, a constituency monitoring fund, a full-fledged parliamentary police unit to take care of the “special” security needs of MPs, diplomatic passports, and State-funded medical cover for MPs’ concubines, or second wives.
The list of entitlements is certainly not exhaustive.
In the excitement of the moment, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale understandably got a little bit carried away.
But at least he was honest with what the bill was all about.
“This bill is about our (MPs’) welfare. It belongs to us. We must own it,” he noted.
He helpfully reminded his colleagues that the Parliamentary Service Commission is the only constitutional commission not “aligned” in law as other commissions are.
Translation: Parliament will henceforth take charge of determining its emoluments and privileges from intruder bodies like the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
Duale spent considerable time gushing about the provision for diplomatic passports, which he pointed out cabinet ministers are issued with.
You see, the MPs travel a lot also, and they don’t desire to be treated like riff-raff at airports. Or beg for visas when travelling overseas.
“We will save Parliament a lot of money in visa fees,” offered Duale.
The Majority Leader was particularly miffed that in places he travelled to like the US or Britain, his legislative counterparts there were suitably “empowered” compared to him. Unforgivable.
Those familiar with parliamentary debates know they are marked by plenty of give-and-take and disputatious arguments.
This particular day was different.
All the MPs who spoke were singing hosannas to the new bill in perfect harmony, like illicit lovers who don’t care being caught.
There were none of the usual interruptions of points of order as members made their contributions. (You can rest assured the Gender Bill will be another matter).
The image of a big nanny legislature came to mind, like of a fat unaccountable pig that provides warm copious milk to hungry piglets who don’t care where their mother gets her food from.
My only beef, such as it were, is that the MPs are not going the whole hog.
Their wish-list is guaranteed, anyway.
Why settle for lowly Toyota Prados or Land Cruiser V8s when the market has the ultimate in today’s SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne (price: $200,000, before duty) or the Rolls Royce Cullinam ($425,000)?
No worry since the Kenyan taxpayer who loves his MP to bits will happily pick the tab.
Talking of which, the National Assembly Speaker’s office is rather drab, compared to that of his counterpart at the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who holds court in a suite of luxurious offices with plush leather couches.
Nah, I would agree with our MPs that the leader of our legislature deserves better. I am sure the taxpayer will oblige.
By the way, the current medical cover limit of Sh10 million for MPs is a disgrace. It can’t cover you and the family and the concubine for treatment in Germany, let alone the US.
Leave India and South Africa for lowlier folk. Incidentally, the MPs forgot to include an education package for their children in places like the UK.
Go for it, guys. Kenya is rich.