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Eleven reasons why Uhuru must never give in to MPs’ plunder

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By KWENDO OPANGA
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When Members of the twin Houses of Parliament gang up in a plot to plunder the public purse, the President must, on behalf of the public, lead a fightback to thwart their besetting sin and to force them onto the straight and narrow.

President Kenyatta is rightly standing up to the Members of the National Assembly and Senate and telling them their twin demands for higher pay plus multiple perks, and bid to legislate their remuneration, will not stand.

Why? Because, added to their already bloated pay and allowances, they are far too extravagant for the public purse. Indeed, MPs come across as insulting the taxpayers and insensitive to the burden they bear.

Why the President? One, because he has nothing to lose. He does not owe the lawmakers because he will not be seeking another term in office. More importantly, he owes Kenyans plenty in terms of protecting their purse and making their lives liveable. Two, because legislators are blackmailing the President by refusing to pass the constitution-sanctioned gender Bill so that he assents to their pay-and-perks demand, he should threaten a simple eventuality: Non-enactment of the gender law could cause dissolution of Parliament. He should remind them he is not an MP.

Three, the President should warn the lawmakers that if Parliament were dissolved, he would go to the country portraying himself as the protector of the public purse and them as predators as he explains his rejection of their pay-and-perks demand. Four, because the demand is deeply unpopular with Kenyans, by rejecting it President Kenyatta will be aligning himself with the people against a pampered but out-of- touch lot. Such MPs deserve public opprobrium sanctioned at presidential level for long term impact.

Five, what happens when legislators turn predators on public wealth rather than protectors of it? They must be immediately prevented from causing further heist and harm. They must be stopped by a law enacted to check greed caused by misuse of parliamentary office. The President should prepare this new law and challenge MPs to show their selflessness by legislating against greed by lawmakers. Again, the President must pit MPs against the people in whose name they purport to increase their pay and perks.

Six, this means that the law must be unambiguous on the role of the public in determining the remuneration of their representatives, especially with a view to ensuring that MP emoluments are pegged on the performance of the economy. In short, the people, as hirers of MPs, should help determine their pay. Seven, witness the utter contempt of MPs for their electors: They say they will pass their pay-and-perks Bill no matter how unpopular, no matter that the public think their move reeks of greed.

The President should tell MPs because they are out of touch they deserve to be kicked into touch. Eight, he should corner them on justification by asking them three economy and performance-linked questions: What have MPs done to deserve sky-high pay-and-perks raises? Zilch. Where’s the evidence rent-free houses and taxpayer-fuelled vehicles increase MP efficacy? There isn’t. Does the prevailing economic situation support a budgetary increase to pay MPs more? It does not.

Nine, when MPs demand pay-and-perks raises so too will public servants, doctors, nurses and teachers in a multiplier effect. They are better deserving because they work hard and long, early and late, year in and year out. Yet, remember this: MPs have not considered for debate last month’s International Labour Organisation’s report which said Kenya’s workers, in real terms, earn less today than they did 10 years ago. Do MPs ever have anybody else’s back?

Ten, the pay-and-perks demand is a compelling reason for a referendum on the reform of representation with a view to culling the number of elected reps and their perks. It beats creating a Prime Minister’s post allegedly to increase inclusivity in the Executive while stopping MPs from arrogating to themselves the role of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

And, last, there is not a more politically exciting legacy for Mr Kenyatta than to be known as the President who faced down legislators-turned-predators over the public purse and was ready to force a General Election and enactment of law to tame Legislative greed. Mr President, Keep on taking on the lawmakers. It is us, the pained host, versus them, the parasitic MPs. With your support, we cannot lose. But you must stay the course.

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