Editorials

Rein in MPs’ extravagant spending on foreign trips

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MPs during a session at Parliament chambers. PHOTO | FILE

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Summary

  • The spending on flight tickets, accommodation and allowances rose 1,309.8 percent or 14 times from the Sh49.87 million lawmakers spent on foreign trips in the quarter to March.
  • The amounts spent on the trips and the frequency of the travels are not commensurate to their supposed socio-economic benefits.
  • The Controller of Budget has called on the Executive to rein in recurrent expenditure and foreign travel in particular.

That MPs ratcheted their foreign travels after easing of Covid-19 restrictions is not a surprise. The foreign trips are just one more avenue the lawmakers use to pad their pay to the limit and there has hardly been any solution to the runaway spending despite repeated warnings by the Controller of Budget.

Members of the National Assembly and Senators splashed Sh703.1 million on foreign trips in the three months to June — the highest quarterly spend since Kenya started making public travel spending in 2013.

The spending on flight tickets, accommodation and allowances rose 1,309.8 percent or 14 times from the Sh49.87 million lawmakers spent on foreign trips in the quarter to March.

This is shameless but expected. Officially, foreign travel by lawmakers is meant 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 leisure they get from these junkets.

The amounts spent on the trips and the frequency of the travels are not commensurate to their supposed socio-economic benefits.

The big question is how and whether lawmakers’ greed can ever be tamed. The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), whose membership is controlled by MPs, is among the institutions abetting the lawmakers’ extravagance.

The Controller of Budget has called on the Executive to rein in recurrent expenditure and foreign travel in particular.

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

In recent years, MPs have been happy to rubberstamp the wishes of the Executive, including the introduction of outrageous taxes in return for a large budget for their own aggrandisement.

Taxpayers, in their role as the electorate, maybe the most powerful force of accountability. Replacing MPs is not enough. Raising financial accountability as an electoral issue is key.

The PSC budget must also be scrutinised closely to prioritise funding of the key mandates of lawmakers of representation and passing laws. It should be clear that MPs’ spending is not limited by need or moral conscience but the availability of funds.