By Kaltuma Guyo
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi cut a frustrated and lonely figure a fortnight ago as he decried the poor attendance record of MPs.
His assertion that it has been challenging for Parliament to discuss crucial bills and reports due to lack of quorum should be worrying for the country.
According to Mr, Muturi, one of the key reports to be tabled before the House is on the financial scandal at KEMSA. Healthcare in the country is wanting and the debilitating issue that plagues the health sector is corruption, as many of us know. There has been not been a more heart-wrenching scandal than that involving KEMSA.
With the scandal having occurred in the middle of the most serious pandemic to hit the world in more than a century, for our MPs not to be moved by the implication of loss of Covid-19 funds it means our leadership is inhumane and has reached the lowest depths of impunity.
Some of the MPs, it transpired, were constantly out for conferences and meetings. It boggles my mind what is so important that it cannot be discussed in Parliament but requires extra expenditure at expensive resorts in Mombasa or Naivasha. Mind you, MPs have personal offices, which offer extra spaces from which to conduct parliamentary and constituency matters.
If legislative issues fail to be discussed because MPs are forever on tour, it means what takes them away from Parliament has little to do with those they represent. At this rate, even if we moved Parliament to a plot on the azure beach, MPs would still find an excuse to pursue personal interests over national interests elsewhere.
The KEMSA report now risks dying a ‘natural death’ like the Sh63 billion Managed Equipment Services (MES) scandal one if Parliament continues to drag its feet. Report on the maize scandal that later came back to haunt the then-MP for Sirisia, John Waluke, lay dormant in Parliament for years until EACC got on top of it.
How many more reports involving financial irregularities are gathering dust within the confines of Parliament is any one’s guess. The oversight role to be played by Parliament is clearly stipulated in the Constitution.
This is not happening satisfactorily as Parliament’s decisions take years in coming yet a couple of months can suffice. Sadly, it looks like Parliament is keeping sentry for corrupt elements and organisations. Given our challenges with corruption, MPs should be the first to burn the midnight oil to deal with all cases swiftly.
Behaviour of criminality
The behaviour of criminality that our Parliament is often associated with does not auger well for the future of the country. With a rogue Parliament, forget winning the war on corruption.
How can that happen if graft allegedly keeps being sanctioned from the Floor of the House through inaction and whitewashing of related reports?
A parliament that adopts a laissez-faire attitude regarding its duties, sanctions corruption and is out to bleed the system for personal financial gain poses serious risk to national security, undermines social fabric and is a saboteur of the economy.
What is happening in our Parliament is the type of stuff that would lead to a revolution — not of bloodbath but ideas. It needs men and women of integrity to turn the tables on impugned leaders. Unless Chapter 6 of the Constitution is adhered to, we shall always produce leaders bent on impunity and lacking in conscience.
The BBI proposal to expand parliamentary seats by 70 is unnecessary and not well-thought-out if we are to consider the poor record score of our Parliaments.
A bulging leadership is only going to be more problematic. It requires extra funds to pay for the extra seats; money that we desperately need for service delivery.
Rule of law
If there is an ombudsman needed, it is one to oversee the activities of MPs. I forgot there is the Parliamentary Disciplinary Committee that, frankly, has more bark than bite. If they were alert to abuse of power within Parliament, we could just tame MPs — but alas!
Our problem is not just having a rogue Parliament but emanates from our lack of respect for even the simplest of rules. We are not a nation known for respect for the rule of law. We are harvesting leaders that we sowed in the communities.
An MP was once a citizen who survived by bribing, supplying air in ‘tenderpreneurship’ and most likely used the loot to get to power. How does a bribe-hunting leopard change its spots to an honourable MP?
In a country where millions of youth are struggling to find work, the Speaker of Parliament begs the highest-paid MPs in the world to turn up for work.
If that is not a definition of irony, I do not know what is! We are better off with a lean, dedicated and effective Parliament than a blotted one if we are serious about guaranteed national security, fighting corruption and building the economy.
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher based in Kenya and the United Kingdom. firstname.lastname@example.org