What you need to know:
- It may be surprising to some why an MP for a constituency at the Coast should follow a presidential candidate campaigning in Turkana County.
- It must be said repeatedly by the MPs that the Government has criminally mismanaged the resources it collects from taxpayers.
The Daily Nation on Friday pilloried Members of Parliament for their astonishing sense of priorities after a staggering 269 missed debate on what is easily the most publicly supported report in the House this year: the report by the Finance and Planning Committee that proposes to reduce tax on fuel. Apparently, most of those absent had accompanied presidential hopefuls William Ruto and Raila Odinga on their campaign travels.
It is almost sinful that this is the case but very few acts of omission by our MPs elicit surprise any more. The only time that they demonstrate unanimity with a strong show of numbers is when a motion being debated affects their livelihoods directly or when they have been whipped to go support something that an MP’s sponsoring party has an interest in.
It may be surprising to some why an MP for a constituency at the Coast should follow a presidential candidate campaigning in Turkana County until we remember that this is really an investment to be cashed in when that candidate wins. He is supposed to be indebted to the MP sufficiently for him to consider rewarding him/her with a position that allows that person to steal enough to recover their investment!
Meanwhile, the taxpayer continues funding the billions given to Parliament to make the MPs comfortable and support their legislative work. Each of these people roaming around gyrating on platforms and repeating messages and promises they know to be lies have been given research support to help them understand and debate some of the really serious issues that have a direct impact in their constituencies, the country and the international community.
While the debate on taxes is completely well intentioned, for instance, it ought to be nuanced to explain why the country finds itself in this nightmarish situation and suggest ways in which the taxes can be reduced but also how the income it contributed to the Exchequer can be recovered. It must be said repeatedly by the MPs that the Government has criminally mismanaged the resources it collects from taxpayers – read the Auditor-General’s reports to appreciate the meaning of gross inefficiency – and through corruption.
Fight against corruption
Parliament is not committed to the fight against corruption or we could be hearing a lot more anger, a lot more concern over a scourge that sucks billions out of the economy every day. The few that make this point are appreciated.
If most MPs were true representatives of the people, many more could have been in the House to remind Government that our farmers can transform their lives, earn more, pay more taxes and support other areas of government if extension services existed to guide them on the use of critical production inputs like fertilizer and pesticides, if they got incentives to reduce post-harvest losses and if access to market did not mean ease for middlemen to reach the farmers to exploit them.
MPs from the North Rift could, perhaps, have suggested to the government that if milk, maize and horticulture farmers were incentivized to grow more, the taxes they lose on fuel will be recovered. They may even have made positive reference to the fact that the Government’s proactivity on the issue of climate change and its mitigation is welcome as it has a direct link to the woes that farmers in their areas are burdened with.
But then again, not many of our MPs will be aware that the next big global summit after the recent UN Food Summit is the COP26 climate talks coming up in Glasgow next month. Last week saw stakeholders in Kenya gather to highlight some of the concerns that Kenya and Africa need to articulate at the summit. No MP was seen at the session at which concern about greenhouse gas emissions was top of the list, closely followed by the worrying lack of understanding among many critical players, especially farmers, about the link between what they do and the impact on the climate.
In that debate on tax, MPs with an interest in manufacturing may have brought up the very lucrative opportunity that the Government wastes every day it does not enact and implement the Local Content Mechanism law to define minimum amounts of local content that must be included in any product imported for sale into Kenya.
It could be a House of deep debate, rigorous analysis, comprehensive recommendations and great foresight. It has been reduced to a shell of shameful imbecility and frivolity, a source of dishonest enrichment used to fund trips to perpetuate fairy tales of how new governments will distribute free money without increasing tax! Quite pathetic.
The writer is a former Chief Editor of the Nation Group and is now consulting. [email protected], @tmshindi