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January 20, 2019

Leaders' greed, wastage will be nation's undoing

ven as reports of a government in unprecedented financial crisis emerge, the Jubilee regime, through its Treasury CS, announces a subsidised car loan scheme for its top state officers. The scheme would see these lucky few get car loans of Sh10 million each and mortgages of Sh40 million each.

The blessed few, including CSs, the Attorney General, Secretary to the Cabinet and the man who audits them, will benefit from a ‘small’ revolving fund of Sh1 billion. The scheme that took effect at the beginning of this month will see senior officers on the second row, including PSs, get a ‘measly’ Sh8 million for a car.

In the same newspaper, also appeared the alleged massive looting of up to Sh500 million through fraudulent procurement by parliamentary staff. This follows another scandal involving more than Sh700 million at the National Youth Service.

In the ‘provincial’ pages, the newspaper has some members of the proposed 2017 political vehicle JAP complaining about Nyeri MCAs’ retreat to the Coast at a cost of Sh10 million to the taxpayer. The previous day, the Star had published a photo of two Nyeri MCAs modelling in shades and clearly feeling on the top of the world as they took a KQ flight from Nairobi to Mombasa for the retreat. Yes, as the advertisement goes, now you can fly.

There was also an account in that newspaper of the Kisumu county government settling a bill of more than Sh20 million for the month's stay of its governor at a top-end hotel. Apparently governors' mansions are hard to come by in the lakeside city.

These examples were narrated in a single day’s issue of one newspaper and they were not the only ones involving massive misuse of public funds or outright theft. If one analysed the other dailies, watched several TV news casts and listened to a few radio stations, the reported waste discovered would have been more than threefold.

In two days, we would have been talking of sums that would put a huge hole in the country’s budget. But instead of expressing its revulsion and hollering for stern action against these frauds, the government was announcing ridiculous car loan and mortgage schemes for its top dogs.

Financial indiscipline and wastage has seen Kenya almost go bust economically. The government is paying too much in salaries, allowances and grants, without getting value for money.

There is no dispute that devolution has been a major boost to the development of various parts, but the question Kenyans must ask now, is whether we can afford the expanded bicameral parliament and inflated county assemblies that house the most extravagant politicians with no idea why they were elected or nominated in the first place.

Do we really need the more than 300 MPs? Do senators really have a role to play? Apart from elevating them to the level of waheshimiwa (I can never bring myself to address one as such), how are the former councillors, now baptised MCAs, making life better for the peasants they claim to represent? The time, I think, has come for the country to seriously think of constitutional amendments that would see the numbers of these representatives drastically reduced.

KRA has in recent years done exemplary well in collecting revenue (the Treasury CS avers it is not doing enough). But public sector expenditure has exceeded revenue collected, with most of it being used on recurrent expenditure that includes useless foreign and local trips and shameless entertainment by public officers on themselves. I have talked about the robbery by MPs through mileage claims before.

While the ordinary Kenyan struggles to make ends meet on shoestring budgets, the big boys (and girls) continue to plunder public resources to the extent that we are now living beyond our means, though CS Henry Rotich would hear none of this. Politicians have quite skillfully balkanised Kenya along tribal lines, but we also want to wreck it economically because of our insatiable greed?


Njonjo Kihuria is a freelance journalist. [email protected]


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