MATHIU: With this obscene wastefulness in government, we are doomed - Daily Nation

With this obscene wastefulness in government, we are doomed

Friday October 12 2018

public funds

The level of financial indiscipline suggested by wanton corruption means we are doomed. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MUTUMA MATHIU
More by this Author

I took a walk through the city this week, which took me down Parliament Road into Kenyatta International Convention Centre, through the government district on Harambee Avenue. I stood on the steps of KICC and looked over the car park and my heart sank.

I have never seen so many gas-guzzling juggernauts in my life. Every person in this government, it appears, drives a Toyota Land Cruiser V8.

At Parliament Buildings, there is a new parking between the road and the main building. Walking down Parliament Road, you feel as if you are inspecting a guard of honour, mounted by Japanese junks.

How many of these vehicles has the government wasted the taxpayer’s money on?

And why are government officials driving off-road vehicles, best suited to the Arabian Desert, to the office?

I thought there was a government policy regulating the size of engines for vehicles issued to Cabinet secretaries and other top government officials?

COSTLY

The policy, in 2009, was to withdraw all vehicles with an engine bigger than 1,800cc and the government abandoned or sold for a song countless vehicles, at great cost to the taxpayer.

Now, I am as crazy about cars as the next man. I’d love to drive an expensive car, a Rolls-Royce even.

I’d love to own my father’s dream car (he believed a real African terrorist should drive nothing less than a long wheel base Range Rover, a final insult to the Imperialist).

As a matter of fact, I look at expensive cars all the time. My crush of the moment is the five-litre 2018 Range Rover, Fiji white with a red leather interior.

The legroom, rear screens, panoramic sunroof … it’s like driving to work in an SQ with a balcony.

If I went to the Nation Sacco, refreshed my mortgage and called a shylock or two, I probably might raise the Sh20-odd million that it would cost to put this Range Rover on the road.

DISCIPLINE

But I am not buying it; I can’t afford it. I can’t afford any car, haven’t afforded one in years and won’t for many years: I have fees to pay.

If you have to beg, borrow and steal to buy something, you can’t afford it.

And you can’t have everything you desire; you have to delay or cancel gratification. That’s what ‘adulting’ is all about, isn’t it?

Similarly, the level of financial indiscipline suggested by wanton corruption and abuse of public funds through reckless spending, especially on luxuries such as useless juggernauts, means we are doomed.

The government is taxing us to within an inch of our lives, then wasting those funds on conspicuous consumption, for heaven’s sake.

So, we can’t get services and we have no money to invest at the household level.

REVOLUTION

Ten years ago, then-Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta reckoned he could save Sh2 billion in fuel and maintenance by getting rid of gas guzzlers.

I wonder how much we are spending on them today. Added to the fact that the elite are evacuating tax cash and corruptly retaining portions of foreign loans by the shipload — there is all of Sh5 trillion in secret accounts abroad — then you realise the extent to which the political elite and their friends are gambling away the future and playing with popular sentiment.

Revolutions do not start as full-blown conflicts. The popular Armenian uprising, which felled strongman Serzh Sargsyan, started as a protest walk by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan on March 31.

He reached the capital two weeks later and only a handful of protesters occupied the main square. But he channelled popular discontent and, by May 2, the country had ground to a halt, shut down by protesters.

Massive looting of public funds, heavy taxation and conspicuous consumption by elements of the elite is a combustible mix. Already, I can smell trouble on the road.

RESPECT

It is always with a flash of irritation that I agree to be pushed out of the road by minor government officials in their juggernauts with a siren and a hand holding a walkie-talkie sticking out of the window.

I always ask myself: I buy you the car, fuel it, and now you want me to make way for you? It is especially irritating knowing that these functionaries are unelected and make no useful contribution, their only advantage being connections.

Don’t get me wrong; I am respectful of our leaders. I scuttle out of the way of ambulances and fire engines.

I am very happy to make way for the President, Deputy President, Raila Odinga, the First Lady, Mrs Odinga, the Chief Justice, the Chief of Defence Forces, the Inspector-General of Police, Mama Ngina Kenyatta and countless other Kenyans who deserve, and have earned, our respect.

But every joker in government has a policeman with a walkie-talkie to stick out.

I followed a particularly obnoxious juggernaut that bullied us and drove the wrong way round Globe Cinema Roundabout. In town, a fashionably dressed lady got out. She appeared late either for a hair appointment or shopping. I was aghast.

Respect the people and their money and you will do well.

* * *

My column last week touched a live wire. I owe an apology to single mothers raising sons, doing their best, not always getting it right, but through no fault of theirs. They are good people and they deserve the support of society.