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DESPERATION

MPs' pay rise bid driven by fear

In Summary

• Former MCAs who lost their reelection and are now facing financial hardships and some are taxi drivers or boda boda operators.

• If just one electoral defeat leads to such financial devastation for MCAs, why would you imagine that MPs are any different?

Struggling former MCAs
Struggling former MCAs
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

 

There was a revealing article published in a local newspaper over the weekend on the delicate subject of “broke former MCAs”.

The gist of this article was that all over the country, there are former MCAs who lost their reelection and are now facing financial hardships.

 

Some of those interviewed admitted they had returned “back to the village” to live with their ageing parents, while others admitted to having stooped to being taxi drivers. Younger former MCAs — if I recall correctly — had gone into the ‘boda boda’ transport business.

This is a steep fall for men and women who just a couple of years ago, were busy ordering county executives around on behalf of their friends and relatives. Were regularly being appeased by governors, whenever threats of impeachment were made. And were turning up at airports to board flights to European capitals for “benchmarking tours”.

It’s a long way from the elite frequent flyer lounges of JKIA to the dusty rural roads that sweaty ‘boda boda’ riders ply their trade on.

But here is the question: If just one electoral defeat leads to such financial devastation for MCAs, why would you imagine that MPs are any different?

The MPs may not fall so low as to take up carrying passengers or goods on motorbikes to make ends meet. But they can certainly head in that direction.

Roughly, 70 per cent of all elected leaders in Kenya lose their seats when seeking reelection. And very few of them walk away from such electoral defeat with anything left in their bank accounts.

Kenyan parliamentary politics has long evolved into a mad race between desperate men and women, and especially in the final weeks of the official campaign season, when the spending goes into overdrive.

 

Only those who were already seriously rich end up — whether they win or lose — with their financial status unshaken.

Everybody else ends up drowning in debt.

A winner, for example, may find that even the petrol required for the drive to Nairobi for the swearing-in can be a challenge.

And for the loser, plans to keep the auctioneers at bay begin almost immediately, as the comfortable monthly income of roughly Sh1 million that they had grown used to, ends abruptly.

It is in this context that one other news item — and one that has been given great prominence in all newspapers — must be viewed. I refer here to the latest attempt by MPs to raid the public purse, this time through the establishment of a monthly “house allowance”, which was promptly paid as soon as it was settled on, and backdated to some months back to yield an immediate windfall of a few millions for each of them.

I have thus far failed in every attempt I have made to explain that this kind of action — as inevitable with each new Parliament as night follows day — is more an expression of desperation than it is of greed.

That it is not so much that the MPs have a limitless appetite for public funds ending up in their pockets, as that the voting public places limitless demands on the MPs.

Make any statement to that effect at any public place, and you will immediately be shouted down by those who rail against the “M-Pigs”, who are bankrupting the country through their unbridled greed.

Worse still will be the condemnation if you try and introduce a little mathematics into the equation. That is, if you ask just how exactly the prospect of roughly 350 people being paid an extra Sh250,000  a month, adding up to just about Sh1 billion annually, is going to have a devastating effect on a national budget now heading towards Sh3 trillion a year.

It may be immoral for the MPs to award themselves this bonus. But the impact on the national budget will be minimal.

And even with this extra money, most of the MPs will still end up destitute after the next General Election.