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Control the extravagant spending of MPs on trips abroad

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Control the extravagant spending of MPs on trips abroad


Deputies during a session in the Houses of Parliament. PHOTO | PROCEEDINGS

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Summary

  • Spending on airfare, lodging and allowances increased 1,309.8 percent or 14 times from the $ 49.87 million that lawmakers spent on foreign travel in the quarter through March.
  • The amounts spent on trips and the frequency of trips do not correspond to their assumed socioeconomic benefits.
  • The Budget Controller has asked the Executive to control ordinary expenses and trips abroad in particular.

The fact that MPs increased their trips abroad after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions is not a surprise. Travel abroad is just one more avenue lawmakers use to raise their paychecks to the limit, and there has hardly been a solution to the runaway spending despite repeated warnings from the budget controller.

Members of the National Assembly and senators spent 703.1 million shillings on overseas travel in the three months to June, the highest quarterly expenditure since Kenya began spending public travel spending in 2013.

Spending on airfare, lodging and allowances increased 1,309.8 percent or 14 times from the $ 49.87 million that lawmakers spent on foreign travel in the quarter through March.

This is cheeky but expected. Officially, legislators’ trips abroad are intended to facilitate their work, including learning from the experiences of other economies and democracies.

But everyone knows that Kenyan MPs are primarily motivated by the money and entertainment they get from these trips.

The amounts spent on trips and the frequency of trips do not correspond to their assumed socioeconomic benefits.

The big question is how and if the greed of legislators can ever be tamed. The Parliamentary Services Commission (PSC), whose membership is controlled by parliamentarians, is one of the institutions that encourages the extravagance of legislators.

The Budget Controller has asked the Executive to control ordinary expenses and trips abroad in particular.

This will require a renewed independence of Parliament from the Executive, a principle envisaged in the Constitution but lacking in practice.

In recent years, deputies have been happy to approve the executive’s wishes, including the introduction of outrageous taxes in exchange for a large budget for their own aggrandizement.

Taxpayers, in their role as electorate, perhaps the most powerful force for accountability. Replacing MP is not enough. Considering financial responsibility as an electrical problem is key.

The PSC budget should also be closely scrutinized to prioritize funding for key mandates of representative legislators and the passing of laws. It should be clear that MPs’ spending is not limited by necessity or moral conscience, but by the availability of funds.

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