Rescue lawmakers from dangerous slide

Parliament in session
Parliament in session. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The 2018 World Cup hosted in Russia provided a perfect opportunity for showcasing the quality of legislators Kenya has.

The country had a group of legislators, representing Parliament and by extension Kenya in the competition as spectators. Since they were on official business, they naturally travelled and stayed on for the duration of the tournament at taxpayers’ expense.

However, questions were raised about what exactly the members went to Russia for. Their response was to study how to improve football standards in Kenya. Some justified their trip on the basis that it was self-funded and not a burden to taxpayers.

In light of the financial situation facing the country, the trip raised a lot of eyebrows. Legislators travel to other countries so as to bench-mark and learn. These travels offer the leaders different perspectives, provide them with the chance to gain comparative insights with a view to proposing solutions to the myriad challenges facing the country and falling within their mandate.

Viewed against this broad perspective, our legislators have a role in improving the standards of football in Kenya.

Despite this, Kenyans were right to question the Moscow trip. It looked more like a chance to travel and go and watch the World Cup. Many Kenyans would have loved to travel for the same reasons. Throughout the country, during the month long period when the matches were played, social places were thronged by eager fans watching and cheering their teams. It is, therefore, understandable that our legislators had the desire to savour the experience. But to do so at taxpayers’ expense is not justifiable.

That some could publicly defend this action raises a fundamental issue about what legislators see their role as.

Elected representatives are expected to make laws, represent and do oversight.

Laws remain the primary role justifying why the leaders are popularly known as lawmakers. For oversight, they have a constitutional responsibility to manage expenditure to ensure prudence. When they are the ones who are engaged in such trips, the oversight becomes tenuous.

The above is just an indicator of how weak oversight by Parliament has become. This past week, the Government continued with its demolition of structures that are alleged to be constructed on riparian reserves.

In the middle of these activities, a friend shared a copy of summons that had been issued by the Clerk of the National Assembly inviting the management of several facilities in Nairobi to a meeting by the Departmental Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. The facilities listed were those that were suspected of violating the rule against constructing on riparian land. The friend’s accompanying message was an inquiry whether the action by the Committee was not a guise for rent-seeking.

Coming at the same time that another Committee was concluding a report on sugar importation and allegations about contamination of that sugar, the concern about irregularities among legislators is not an idle one. It raises fundamental issues about the quality of our leadership and our moral values.

When it becomes acceptable for legislators to be engaging in actions that bring their reputation into question, when citizens lose faith in the work of Parliamentary committees and when every agency becomes a competitor in the game of irregularities then the society is in problems.

As somebody pointed out in such instances, it does not pay to just point accusing fingers.

Every election cycle, we invest heavily in the process of choosing new leaders, but we are yet to get a better cadre of leaders.

Instead of legislators being saviours from the decadence they are partakers in the act. This gives a bad name to the institution and overshadows the good work that some committees do.

We have to find a solution to dealing with the leadership challenge or the institution will slide into irrelevance to the detriment of governance arrangement.