TOO EXPENSIVE

Ex-AG Muigai roots for lean government

Says huge government not translating into greater democracy or yielding greater accountability

In Summary
  • Muigai says Kenyans need a Constitution they can afford
  • But ODM secretary general Sifuna says corruption is biggest burden
Former AG Githu Muigai
Former AG Githu Muigai
Image: FILE

Kenya has one of the most expensive constitutions, which should be reviewed to reduce the size and cost government, former Attorney General Githu Muigai has said.

He said although Kenyans pride themselves in having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world no one ever costed it.

“It is also right to say Kenya has one of the largest governments vis-à-vis population and the most expensive government vis-a-vis the resources available,” Muigai said.

He spoke on Thursday during the opening of the Law Society of Kenya annual conference at PrideInn Paradise Beach Hotel in Mombasa.

“When we revisit the Constitution, for me, the size and cost of government is where we need to start. We need a Constitution that we can afford,” Muigai said.

The big numbers are neither translating into greater democracy nor yielding greater accountability, he said.

The National Assembly has 349 members while the Senate has 67 members, making 416 MPs in total.

The 47 county assemblies have 10,758 members.

The Judiciary has 104 judges, 459 magistrates and 53 Kadhis.

Muigai said there is no need for a High Court in over half the counties contrary to assertions by legal practitioners.

He said: “The truth is we need a chief magistrate’s court in every county and it’s more than enough. In more than half the counties, even the chief magistrate would be idle.”

In 2010-2011, Parliament spent Sh6.3 billion and the county governments spent Sh14.3 billion, according to the former AG.

In 2017-2018, Parliament spent Sh36 billion while counties spent Sh329 billion.

In 2018-2019, Parliament spent Sh36.8 billion while counties spent Sh376 billion.

“We are running a government we cannot afford. It is too large, too unwieldy and too expensive,” Muigai said.

However, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said teh former AG was wrong about the burden on Kenyans.

He said the whole issue of Punguza Mizigo has been misconstrued to make it look like Kenya’s burden is Parliament.

“Parliament’s annual budget is only about Sh36 billion. The money lost on scams like Kimwarer and Arror dams is at least twice that,” said Sifuna.

Tax evasion costs Kenyan taxpayers more than what Parliament consumes in a year, he noted, citing tycoon Humphrey Kariuki who is being sought for allegedly evading tax amounting to Sh41.5 billion.

“If we want to speak about Punguza Mizigo, we have to be open and say where the burden lies,” Sifuna said.

He said the burden is theft, corruption, unnecessary loans and not necessarily Parliament.

“When you tell us reducing the number of MPs in Parliament is the only solution, then you are not being truthful. We must be truthful in this whole constitutional amendment debate,” the lawyer said.

Muigai said independent commissions are too many and unnecessary, duplicating work done and only gobbling up billions of shillings.

He said the Commission for University Education is unnecessary waste of money when there is the Education ministry, same as the National Land Commission.

“We must go back to logic,” he said.

He was part of the Bomas team that drafted the Constitution.

“Government must be lean, mean, small and functional. I am in favour of abolishing three quarters of these commissions, returning the function to ministries that work and getting ministers who can make the ministries work,” Muigai said.

LSK president Allen Gichuhi said representation in Parliament is too much.

“A Constitution only works best when in tune with the concerns of the citizens,”

Muigai said politicians have over the years watered down the Constitution by making unnecessary amendments taking away power from one segment to another.

“That caused the present problems we are facing. We have a bloated Parliament and bloated devolved system. Do we really need this excess representation?