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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kenya MPs salaries and perks...I think they need the money!

Well, one thing I am sure of if you are reading this blog, is that you are interested in Kenya politics or would like to know more about the hullabaloo surrounding the increase in the salaries of MPs.
I think they deserve the Sh150,000 raise in their salaries, if only to make their tax liability zero...it is illegal anyway to review someone's salary downwards.I wouldn't like mine reviewed downwards.
Plus, they are the CEO's of their constituencies, so really, they should be paid well. I know it makes many Kenyans who live below a dollar a day mad, but let's just face it, these so called leaders need the money.
Why, for example would a CEO of a private hospital make Sh3.7 million every month and no one raises a finger, yet the money is obtained by charging sick people millions for drugs? Why, again I ask, would a managing director of an insurance company rob motorists to earn his Sh2.5 million salary every thirty days?
I know you'd tell me that the difference is in the MPs holding a public office, but then, does it mean that just because you voted for them you should live off them?
After all, although it is a self-inflicted professional hazard, they do need the money to contribute to engagement parties, funerals, weddings and even towards payment of school fees or even for bail for their law-breaking constituents.
The hand-out culture is a reality for a politician keen on re-election. You won;t just end it overnight or just because you don't approve. Plus, even though they are not the only ones who attend the funerals or charity events, their's is a hard, a very hard, job. Try dealing with Kenyans, you'll understand.
Can the government afford? Yes! It can afford to pay each MP Sh1 million every month and not go broke. It has done so for the past seven years and despite the public uproar about MPs paying tax on their allowances, no one is asking the all-important question: why were they exempted from paying tax in the first place.
It is in the National Assembly Remuneration Act that no tax will be paid on the MPs' allowances. And they are not alone. Many other constitutional office holders do not pay tax. I don't have the answer yet on why they were exempted in the first place.
The wastage in the coalition government with State Corporations raking in Sh20,000 per person as sitting allowance for their many meetings is just amazing. Corruption in government is also humongous, but people are focusing on the minor issues. I think, the MPs salaries is not the issue, their allowances too is not the issue, but their productivity in the august House should be the issue.
If they deliver the laws, manage the Constituency Development Funds effectively and are able to check government spending without being compromised, for sure there ain't a price so huge to pay.
I do not think their Sh8.8 billion annual budget is so expensive. They can manage it pretty well, improve their offices and Parliament itself, because as it is, when it rains, it leaks. But no one will ever report this given the mediocre public relations unit that the Kenyan parliament has.
The media relations wing could come in handy, but then it is hard, very hard, to defend idiotic decisions.
The MPs too blather alot, skip House sittings and dwell on non-issues, really sensationalism, whenever they are in the House. That's just so disheartening to the electorate. The MPs want to buy following by handing out freebies to the electorate so that they are voted for. That's wrong. That's sad.
Public education on the role of the MPs is the only way out of this quagmire and bad-mouthing of the National Assembly. But the lawmakers too need to style up...when millions are starving and hundred carried away by flood waters, it is not just the time to start thinking about a baby-sitting area, guest house, and restrooms for MPs. If you can't work, just go home. Legislation is SERIOUS business and such luxuries are unwelcome.

PS: When I broke the story on the increased perks, many people were shocked. But I was taken aback when a half-baked scribe who can't understand a simple report written in English calls my scoop "propaganda", just because he missed it. When you thrive on loudmouth politicians' quotes and alarming reports with zero content, with sensational headlines just to sell the third-rate rag you call a newspaper, it makes it very unfortunate for you to consider yourself a journalist in Kenya. That's what I think!


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