BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
It is now an open secret that I have been approached by several people to run in Nyeri as Member of Parliament in 2017. However as I told Jeff Koinange during a recent interview I believe the voice of the people is the voice of God; so I am consulting widely … as politicians say. In the process of my consultations I have become conscious of the roles and responsibilities of a Member of Parliament (MP).
An MP has three main responsibilities.
First, and the most critically important function of a Member of Parliament, is representation. This responsibility is derived from the first chapter of Kenya’s constitution, which gives the sovereign power of the Kenyan State to the Kenyan people. The second clause explains how the people can exercise this power; either exercised directly. Directly means all 40 million plus Kenyans meet and agree whenever we need to make policy or pass laws. Indirectly means we elect a small group to represent the rest of us, and bequeath on them the responsibility of making decisions for the rest of us. Indirectly is the practical way to do things, which is why we elect the President, MPs, Senators, Governors and MCAs.
An MP is therefore in office primarily to represent the constituency from which he or she was elected. I must emphasize something here; the MP represents the constituency that elected him or her, in its entirety; NOT the individual voters from that constituency who voted for him; just the same way a President once elected in President of all Kenyans not just the people who elected him.
This is an important clarification because there are some MPs who go to the National Assembly to represent the voters who elected them, and deliberately isolate voters who supported their rivals and justify it on the basis that they did not vote for them. It is also important because representation means an MP is required to seek their constituency’s views on an issue before taking a public position on it.
Secondly; an MP is required to legislate; make laws. ‘Parliament’ actually means a representative body having supreme legislative powers within a State. This means parliamentarians are representatives of the people meeting to debate and pass laws for the people. In fact the reason MPs have immunity to say anything about anyone while in the precincts of Parliament is so that they are not limited on what they can discuss or pass laws on. We look up to MPs to make laws that represent the values system of the Kenyan people.
Finally, an MP is responsible for oversight of government operations. As per the constitution MPs as representatives of the people are mandated to question anyone delivering services to Kenyans. They have a responsibility of ensuring that the President; His Executive; the Government Officials and Public Servants, Security Agencies, etc are working only as per how the people want them to work; and to ensure whatever policies and administration decisions are made serve the people’s interests, above all else. They therefore have the power to summon literally anyone and stop anything that goes against the people’s wishes.
These are the ONLY three responsibilities given to our MPs by the constitution. Other public responsibilities are given to people holding different offices. The development mandate MPs are laying claim on is a function of County Governments.
Most of the current 290 MPs understand this. I am convinced they know CDF is now irrelevant under the new constitution, after devolution kicked in. However they want to continue having a public fund they can do local politics with. They also want to continue cheating local voters that their (re)election should be based on how many roads they have built; how much bursary they have given out; how many buildings they have put up, etc. Well, now we all know what is NOT their job!
Their job and what we must judged them on in 2017 is: (i) How effectively his or he constituency’s views affected national issues and decisions; (ii) How closely national laws passed in parliament aligned to the values and principles of the constituency they represented; and (iii) How effectively they audited and oversaw government operations especially as regards how they affected their constituency. Period!
Meanwhile if I was an MP today I would start thinking about how to introduce and institutionalize a fund that is in line with my mandate; maybe one that supports MPs to hold regular constituency-wide barazas to collect views on national issues before I take a position on it in Parliament. It would make more sense.
But I am not an MP … yet.
So all I will do is demand that Kenyans recall any MP who seeks to return CDF to Parliament, so that the constituency they represent can elect an MP who actually understands what their responsibility and mandate as an MP is.
(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates, a political think-tank)