Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kenyan MPs' Hefty Pay Increases is an Act of Corruption!

Corruption is a serious indictment to level against our "honourable" MPs especially when the power to award themselves pay hikes is endowed on them by law. The recent pay hike that has aroused public hue and cry was purportedly made under the Statute Bill (Miscellaneous Amendment Act) 2006. It is important therefore to define what we mean by corruption here, so as to place their actions on a proper perspective.

In general life we associate corruption with bribery, kickbacks, or misappropriation of public funds and property. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines corruption as i) impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle ii) inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means, iii) a departure from the original or from what is pure correct. To what extend can we therefore say that MPs' actions fall within the parameters of this definition?

The first order of business by the current Kenyan Parliament, which was elected on 30 December 2002, was to increase their pay. They voted themselves huge increases in allowances and travelling expenses. Currently, an MP earns a gross salary of over Ksh 800,000. Recently they increased the salary of the President by 300% from Ksh 700,000 to Ksh 3,200,000. At the same time the MPs proposed for themselves a total of Ksh 1,500,000 each as a handshake at the end of the life of the current parliament. The President, however, as a result of pressure from the public has rejected the high pay accorded to him.

It is no doubt that Kenyan MPs, and Ministers are the highest paid politicians in the world. A comparison made with pay of leaders in most developed countries like USA and Britain and some African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda by International Jurist Commission - Kenya leaves no doubt to the veracity of this assertion. Furthermore, the high pay compares poorly with the low per capita economic figures in Kenya and the poor performance of the MPs in the parliament. The parliament suffers from chronic lack of quorum, as most MPs do not regularly attend parliamentary sessions. According to the Guardian in 2004 MPs spent 57 days in parliament. Last year their workload was even smaller and only five pieces of legislation were passed. The huge salary awards also compare grimly with the dismal pay Kenyans get in general and the fact that most of the population lives on less than a one US dollar per day.

A recent public survey conducted in Kenya sponsored by the government cited the Parliament as the most corrupt institution. The survey conclusion was based on the general public perception that the hefty increases in pay and emoluments MPs have rewarded themselves in the recent years were unjustified and a blatant abuse of office. The Kenya Times newspaper continues to say that in the case of MPs, the report says, the result could also have been based on the simple expression of general displeasure with the National Assembly or individual MPs based on particular examples of corruption in individual terms. In addition the report said that though MPs are rarely in bribery-demand situations, on the contrary they are alleged to initiate them at least during election campaigns. Others rate the lawmakers as corrupt due to the manner in which they widely buy their way into the National Assembly, the report says. Other factors such as salary levels and the motivation of personnel, the report says, may also have contributed to their lower rankings compared to those of government institutions.

The fact that one is authorised by law to perform certain duties and actions does not imply that the law empowers misuse of that power. What the MPs have done with impunity is to misuse the power granted to them (i.e. to reasonably assess and reward themselves proper pay). They have increased their pay without due regard to the general level of salaries paid to ordinary workers (it does not matter that CEOs and other senior civil servants are paid more, this are not ordinary workers). They have not also taken consideration of the general performance of the economy as well as regard of what other MPs and political leaders earn in the world. Their actions are therefore improper and unlawful. They are also an ethical because they go contrary to the expectation of the majority of the people as the survey above has indicated. The high pay increase is as such a departure from the original and from what is pure correct (reasonable assessment). Furthermore, the high pecks increase is a manifestation of pure greed, which has impaired MPs integrity, virtue and moral principles. It amounts to pure looting and plunder of public resources and economy.

It is not the objective of this Blog to condemn all MPs wholesale. It is, however, the duty of the electorate to thoroughly scrutinise every MP and to ensure that those who fail to pass the test are voted out during the next general election. The electorate has also the sacred duty to salvage the image of the Parliament from a corrupt house to a house of integrity by kicking out the rotten elements. As the ICJ-Kenya has asked "are Kenyans therefore willing to elect leaders who will reduce pay perks for MPs and other senior public servants to a level that our economy can afford?" Moreover, this Blog asks are Kenyans willing to elect persons of integrity who will serve public interest and not MPs’ personal interests first?

Related views
MPs fingured in graft
Vote All MPs Out
Cleric Fury over Kibakis Pay
Kenya Cannot Afford Hefty Salaries for Public Officials
Kenya's Costly Politics - The Guardian


kenyaonly said...

they have little to show of what they have done in parliament is another way of stealing from government. Seems like the only bill that seems to pass in the house is the one that concerns their pay and benefit. I agree with you Daktari, voters need to make that change during this coming elections, they need to vote for development minded people rather than money hungry politicians.

nchogu said...

am glad am not the only one outraged by this bit of news. we are in the process of organising a demonstration to register our feelings. we have an events page on facebook (!/event.php?eid=129016080467412) for the same purpose.

please join us. we hope to get the permit and police escort. pay us a visit on our wall and drop some ideas. even if they deny us the chance to demonstrate let us have a virtual demonstration. let us be felt and let it go into history's records that we were not happy with this.