Slash politicians’ obscene perks

A sitting of the National Assembly.

A joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate on November 30, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The current crop of politicians is already talking of huge allowances, private medical cover for terrorist attacks and reversal of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) that was deemed illegal by the courts before they even get to sit in the House.

Greedy does not even begin to explain them. In Kenya, politics has always been a gravy train, attracting many to the political career and not public service. The glittering manifestos used to seek votes have already been binned and voters’ interests cast aside in favour of the politicians’.

I’m yet to understand why politicians find it necessary to get insurance cover for terrorism rather than use the money to secure the country as a whole.

There’s a lot awaiting newly elected politicians. They’ve inherited a huge debt. Kenya faces economic challenges brought on by various external factors—Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and climate change—to name but a few. On the last one, Kenya is still in the throes of drought with millions facing starvation.

These are issues of paramount importance that need prioritising, rather than allowances and insurance for terrorism to save only politicians. Do Kenyan politicians really care? No, they could never, if we stand by and let them fleece the country.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has made some attempts to rein in greedy politicians but have not gone far enough to regularise universal benefit to all Kenyans. Universal benefits include equitable medical care, mortgage, salaries and other loans. It’s discriminatory for voters to have to go to the open market for mortgages and loans while politicians have theirs subsidised.

It’s unthinkable in a just society for politicians to have better medical cover than those that voted them in. The idea of giving politicians better medical insurance and letting the voters scramble for the few services at public hospitals is not only unfair but also discriminatory.

If everybody, including the politicians, went to the open market to get a mortgage at, hopefully, the same reasonable rates, we could just be able to address the issue of shelter for all. It would also improve the economy and help the financial institutions to rump up their businesses. It’s not enough for politicians to build affordable houses where voters are still expected to get mortgages at a higher rate than them.

Among the highest-paid

Kenyan politicians are among the highest-paid in the world. This is not a claim to glory. For a developing country, it shows that the country has got its priorities upside-down. Instead of contributing to its overall socioeconomic health, it targets the interests of a few politicians at the expense of the poor majority of taxpayers.

The huge salaries for politicians are unjustified. The high remuneration has shown no value for money as inequality is still a big problem in Kenya. The gap between the haves and the have-nots keeps widening. With the high level of remuneration, the country should be posting huge economic returns and better service delivery but the two are still a pipe dream.

The courts ruled recently that CDF was unconstitutional. As co-equals, the Legislature and the Judiciary must respect each other’s decisions and, of course, the principle of separation of powers. The new politicians wishing to reverse the court decision on CDF are not speaking out for their voters but themselves. CDF has become one of the most lucrative conduits for corruption within the constituencies.

Only a handful of MPs can honestly say they have used the funds appropriately. Many face corruption charges for theft of CDF funds. This is not a fund that should ever have been in the hands of politicians but relevant ministries tasked with development. That is duplication of work.

Cheap mortgage

The billions lost in allowances, cheap mortgage and medical cover for politicians would be better used if used to help financial institutions to give out affordable mortgages and hospitals to provide healthcare for all than create a two-tier system that contributes to inequality and only increases the poverty level.

Huge perks should go with the last Parliament. Let everyone paid by taxpayers access the same services as the public. This calls for extra funding for public facilities. The reason most politicians prefer going to private hospitals for healthcare and private schools for their children’s education is the poor standards of public facilities.

Funding private services for politicians from public coffers will not improve public facilities. Period! They will continue to be starved of cash. Let politicians live within their means and use their earnings to get private medical cover and mortgages at the market rate.  Every other politician in Kenya has talked of fighting poverty and creating a prosperous nation. Stealing from the voters and fleecing them is not the way to achieve these goals. The enslavement of taxpayers should stop. Now.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected]. @kdiguyo