Members of parliament are the law makers. They also have the power to decide on their own salaries! We think Dr. Karanja, in his blog is raising a very serious issue. If you have the power to decide on hiking your own salary, what stops you from overdoing it?
<Dr. Stephen Kabera Karanja is a lawyer by profession living in Norway!
Karanja tells his readers that, “corruption is a serious indictment to level against our “honourable” MPs especially when the power to award themselves pay hikes is endowed on them by law. The recent pay hike that has aroused public hue and cry was purportedly made under the Statute Bill (Miscellaneous Amendment Act) 2006. It is important therefore to define what we mean by corruption here, so as to place their actions on a proper perspective.”
As he continues to share with his readers what he thinks is corruption, he moves to the zone of generality saying, “in general life we associate corruption with bribery, kickbacks, or misappropriation of public funds and property. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines corruption as i) impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle ii) inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means, iii) a departure from the original or from what is pure correct. To what extend can we therefore say that MPs’ actions fall within the parameters of this definition?”
We believe in his argument, but there is a problem when theory is to be put into practice and enforced when discussing salaries, especially in a case like the one he is discussing in his blog. That of the Kenyan Members of Parliament, with the power to raise their own earnings.
<Kenya’s Parliament – the place MPs’ sat, talked, and in friendship without consideration to the voters, hiked their salaries!
We are aware that, “the first order of business by the current Kenyan Parliament, which was elected on 30 December 2002, was to increase their pay. They voted themselves huge increases in allowances and travelling expenses. Currently, an MP earns a gross salary of over Ksh 800,000. Recently they increased the salary of the President by 300% from Ksh 700,000 to Ksh 3,200,000. At the same time the MPs proposed for themselves a total of Ksh 1,500,000 each as a handshake at the end of the life of the current parliament. The President, however, as a result of pressure from the public has rejected the high pay accorded to him.”
We in APN ,believe that president Kibaki, below right >, gave into the pressure because he wants to use that as an argument during the next general elections, should he choose to go for the second term. It will be a very good campaign rethoric to tell the voters how he refused money, because he is thinking of their welfare and not his own. And such a rethoric does not fail to win voters. He will say he is for the people and he rejected the hike by greedy members of parliament, because he has the voter’s interest in his heart. Of course, this is a big point for the layman whose vote is so crucial during any election for any office. The voters wants to hear that you think of them, not that you are busy changing laws in parliament to suit your salary hikes.
The Kenya people should take Karanja’s arguments seriously. He is not accusing the members of parliament of stealing, because when you read between the lines, you understand clearly that he is telling the lawmakers to be considerate, and have the people as their interest number one and the country’s economy instead of huge salary increases that they gave themselves on the first day of house business. It is important to note that Kenya is not a rich country and yet, “it is no doubt that Kenyan MPs, and Ministers are the highest paid politicians in the world. A comparison made with pay of leaders in most developed countries like USA and Britain and some African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda by International Jurist Commission – Kenya leaves no doubt to the veracity of this assertion. Furthermore, the high pay compares poorly with the low per capita economic figures in Kenya and the poor performance of the MPs in the parliament. The parliament suffers from chronic lack of quorum, as most MPs do not regularly attend parliamentary sessions. According to the Guardian in 2004 MPs spent 57 days in parliament. Last year their workload was even smaller and only five pieces of legislation were passed. The huge salary awards also compare grimly with the dismal pay Kenyans get in general and the fact that most of the population lives on less than a one US dollar per day.”
The Kenya government led by president Kibaki is doing its best, and to show the interest in fighting corruption, “a recent public survey conducted in Kenya sponsored by the government cited the Parliament as the most corrupt institution. The survey conclusion was based on the general public perception that the hefty increases in pay and emoluments MPs have rewarded themselves in the recent years were unjustified and a blatant abuse of office. The Kenya Times newspaper continues to say that in the case of MPs, the report says, the result could also have been based on the simple expression of general displeasure with the National Assembly or individual MPs based on particular examples of corruption in individual terms. In addition the report said that though MPs are rarely in bribery-demand situations, on the contrary they are alleged to initiate them at least during election campaigns. Others rate the lawmakers as corrupt due to the manner in which they widely buy their way into the National Assembly, the report says. Other factors such as salary levels and the motivation of personnel, the report says, may also have contributed to their lower rankings compared to those of government institutions.”
It is tragic that most of those who are now actively raising their salaries in parliament using the authority that the law gives them as legislators are favouring themselves, and it is true as Karanja states that, “the fact that one is authorised by law to perform certain duties and actions does not imply that the law empowers misuse of that power. What the MPs have done with impunity is to misuse the power granted to them (i.e. to reasonably assess and reward themselves proper pay). They have increased their pay without due regard to the general level of salaries paid to ordinary workers (it does not matter that CEOs and other senior civil servants are paid more, this are not ordinary workers). They have not also taken consideration of the general performance of the economy as well as regard of what other MPs and political leaders earn in the world. Their actions are therefore improper and unlawful. They are also an ethical because they go contrary to the expectation of the majority of the people as the survey above has indicated. The high pay increase is as such a departure from the original and from what is pure correct (reasonable assessment). Furthermore, the high pecks increase is a manifestation of pure greed, which has impaired MPs integrity, virtue and moral principles. It amounts to pure looting and plunder of public resources and economy.”
After having read and understood Karanja’s message, we saw no reason to condemn his arguments on salary hikes, because it is truly sad that Kenyan MPs’ gave themselves high priority the first day at work. In his blog Karanja is, however, excusing himself to his readers.
It seems to us as if he thinks they might misunderstand him, now that he tells them that he is not out to condemn the MPs’ stressing that, “it is not the objective of this, >(“his” added by APN) >Blog to condemn all MPs wholesale, ” adding that, “It is, however, the duty of the electorate to thoroughly scrutinise every MP and to ensure that those who fail to pass the test are voted out during the next general election. The electorate has also the sacred duty to salvage the image of the Parliament from a corrupt house to a house of integrity by kicking out the rotten elements. As the ICJ-Kenya has asked “are Kenyans therefore willing to elect leaders who will reduce pay perks for MPs and other senior public servants to a level that our economy can afford?” Moreover, this Blog asks are Kenyans willing to elect persons of integrity who will serve public interest and not MPs’ personal interests first?”
According to APN, the Kenyan MPs’ took the opportunity to make themselves rich quickly, and we have no apologies to make on that point, because many of them, when they were not in power shouted the loudest that the Kenyan public, and there welfare should be accorded priority at all times, just like Kibaki has now shown by refusing the money the MPs’ wanted him to pocket. If Kibaki had taken the money, the MPs’ would have celebrated and used that as an good excuse to approve money for themselves when the house resumes business after Christmas recess.