Time to offload burden of over-representation in Kenya

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BY MOSES KURIA

In Kenya today we have three legislative layers and two Executive layers. On the legislative layer we have Members of County Assemblies (MCAs), Members of Parliament from the National Assembly and those from the National Senate.

On the Executive layer we have the Governors and the Presidency, replete with the Cabinet. The Presidency executes its mandate through 20 Cabinet Secretaries and 40-odd Principal Secretaries while the County Governments are headed by 47 Governors, 470 County Executives and close to 1,500 Chief Officers.

For a country of 42 million people and a GDP of $71 billion, Kenya is clearly over represented. Contrast this with India. With a population of 1.2 billion people and a GDP of $2,050 billion, India has 548 members of Lok Sabha, the equivalent of our Parliament. Kenya has 62 Senators and 348 Members of the National Assembly making it a total of 410 MPs.

The State of California in the United States, with a comparable population of 38 million people, has one Governor and two Senators. The GSP (Gross State Product) of California is a whopping $2,396 billion. With our measly $71 billion in GDP we have 47 counties and 62 Senators!

Let us take just a cursory look at the County Assemblies. We have 1,450 wards in the country which is a remarkable reduction from the over 3,000 councillors we had in the old Constitution. Then we went ahead to spoil the party. In the name of affirmative action or whatever other lofty ideals, we added another nominated 900 MCAs. On average, an MCA takes home a quarter of a million shillings in salaries and another quarter of a million in all forms of other allowances -sitting, squatting and standing allowances making direct costs of half a million shillings in direct remuneration.

Never mind that by January 2013, last year but one, the lowest paid councillor countrywide was from Mandera with a take-home salary of Sh30,000 while the highest paid was from Nairobi with close to Sh80,000.The employer who used to pay Sh30,000 is Wanjiku. The one paying Sh500,000 is the same Wanjiku. Can Wanjiku produce empirical evidence to support an argument that her fortunes have improved 16-fold so as to be in a position to pay a councillor, now christened an MCA 16 times the salary of last year but one ?
The total cost of maintaining an MCA is Sh1 million if you include both direct remuneration and other costs including workshops, training, endless travel to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, Facebook orientation seminars etc. With 900 nominated MCAs this translates to Sh11 billion every year. If we did not have nominated MCAs, within the term of the 11th Parliament we could have saved enough to build an equivalent of another Thika Superhighway, give laptops to every Standard one pupil and give the teachers the Sh18 billion pay rise that they were looking for to keep our children in school.

The budget of the Parliamentary Service Commission is Sh28 billion. If we reduce the size of our Parliament to 200 through removing the 12 nominated Members of National Assembly, 47 Woman Representatives and 62 Senators and reducing the single member constituencies by 90, we can easily halve that budget and save Wanjiku a whooping Sh14 billion. Now what of if we strengthen the internal controls and fill up the gaping holes exposed by the EACC report? We can easily save Wanjiku another Sh5 billion.

On the issue of counties, I am very pleased to note that even before politics can tie up its shoe laces, common sense is ahead almost finishing the race. In the recent past we have seen a flurry of activity whereby counties from different regions are rushing to form economic blocs. We started with the Coast region whereby 6 counties formed the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP) which was recently launched in Kwale by CORD leader Raila Odinga. Then came the Lake Basin Economic Bloc and more recently the North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB). The emergence of these blocs is proof that common sense and natural market factors are moving faster to replace the economic distortions that we artificially created through the 47 counties.

If we reduce the counties to 16, they will not only follow the pattern of the economic blocs but also create the critical mass of economics, population and geography requisite to run mega investment and infrastructural projects. A million shillings in the pocket of a leader may not mean much to him. The same million can support 100 orphans through bursaries. Let us reduce Wanjiku’s burden of over representation.

That is why a group of like mended people are spearheading a referendum campaign dubbed “Punguza Mzigo” which is now moving to the signature collection phase. We have to do this for ourselves and the future of our children for surely, Punda Amechoka!

(The writer is the Member of Parliament for Gatundu South and a Member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee of the National Assembly – Twitter: HonMoses_Kuria)

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