As Floods Wreak Havoc, MPs Seek Golden Chute
This was a brief study in contrasts: on Monday morning (another week, another try), I opened the Star and found, on page 3, a sad article on how a flash flood in Mathare slums had washed houses and belongings away and left one woman dead. This happened not even because there had been massive rainfall in Nairobi – the article said that it was probably an overflow after heavy rains in Kiambu and Ruaka.
When I recently wrote about Nairobi’s and KPLC’s seeming inability to cope with, you know, rain, I had added at the end that I was very aware of my position of privilege. This was a reminder: I may complain about having no power, but I still live in a solid house, with a roof, and don’t wake up at 5am to find my four walls with all my belongings and, worse, my child washed away (hypothetically speaking. I have belongings, but no child, just the intrepid doglet. He, too, shouldn’t be swept away).
And then I flipped over three pages - there was a detailed article on how the Sh3.7m ‘gratuity’ (and I use this with quotation marks of derision) paid to every single MP might go up to Sh15m. Plus millions of shillings to be spent on a ‘responsibility’ allowance to, hold it, not just current, but also former Speakers of the National Assembly, their deputies and the members of the Speakers’ panel.
All this was included in the harmless-sounding Miscellaneous Amendment Bill. A name so anodyne that you should look at it very, very carefully. The AG has now decided to defer debate on the bill, but I’m not holding my breath. Most of the time, hell will freeze over before MPs will get on with any substantial legislating at any substantial speed, or in any significant numbers, but they push through their own pay increases faster than you can even form the words ‘conflict of interest’ in your head.
When I read about the latest increase in ‘winding up’ allowance and similar shenanigans, all I wanted to do was to tell them, in a clear tone of voice, ‘no’, and give them a short sharp smack with a rolled-up newspaper on the nose. Because surely this is just bad manners, and with decent education, this would have never happened.
But with Kenya’s MPs, an equivalent of this early-day basic training has clearly never taken place. If it had, surely you’d just have to raise an eyebrow in their direction when they mention ‘increase’ and ‘pay’ in the same breath to nix the very idea, and such silly terminology as ‘winding up allowance’ would never be spoken out loud in the first place. Your term as an MP is only five years long, so wind up you will – why the extra cash?
Kenyan MPs are already amongst the highest paid around the world while not presiding over the highest per capita income globally. And a ‘responsibility allowance’? Good grief. It’s a well paid job with, yes, responsibilities. That’s why it’s well paid. Your salary is your ‘responsibility allowance’. Get cracking and do some work rather than throw coffins over at funerals. Because anything else is a slap in the tax payers’ faces. It’s also a slap in the faces of those people who don’t even get round to being tax payers, like the woman who died in the flash floods in Mathare.
Why is there so little of a public outcry over this ridiculous misuse of public funds? I suspect because everyone is exhausted by being taken for such a ride with their taxes time and time again – remember the pressure to make MPs pay taxes. A demanding job should be well paid, but in public office in particular, this needs to be in proportion to per capital income – and I think it’s time for some clear performance measurements, too.
Also amusing in the article: Minister for Information Poghisio commended Finance Minister Githae for ‘succeeding in getting the House to move the Finance Bill.’ It was in April, for crying out loud, two months before the end of the fiscal year, that the good MPs finally got round to moving that bill. After holding everyone hostage over what should not have cropped up ever again this side of the 1970s, price controls. Although I might be revising my stance on this: I am seriously in favour of price controls on MPs.