Monday, December 1, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
November 24, 2008

Like in my past article on our MPs’ salaries and taxation, I have decided to make comparisons with American Congressmen’s salaries and lifestyles in the land of opportunities. After all, that is the country poised to be led by Barack Obama, the African America with roots in Kenya.

An average Congressman in Washington earns $ 160,000 per year. This averages to about $ 13,500 per month; the equivalent of Ks 1 million. On a normal day, this is the same as the monthly salary of a Kenyan MP, country who’s GDP cannot come closer to 1% of that of the USA.

In a good year, Kenya’s annual national budget can only be $ 7 Billion. This amount is not even enough to bail out one insurance company in America when you consider that the US has set aside $800 Billion to deal with financial meltdown in Wall Street. In other words; any nation that can set aside $800Billion of tax payers’ money to bail out private companies must have trillions of dollars in collected taxes and trillions of dollars in its national budget every year.

Yet, an average American Congressman uses his taxed monthly salary of $ 13,000 to pay rent in Washington, sustain the family in the home state and meet personal expenses. In the final analysis, those who cannot afford a $ 1300 monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in the Capital opt to convert their Congressional offices into bed-seaters and use Congressional washrooms to shower and change when Congress is in session. It is the kind of frugality that can only be found among leaders who would like to lead by example.

Yet here in Kenya, we have to pay MPs untaxed salaries, meet their travel expenses in and out of Nairobi, give them free car loans, maintain those cars for them, give them insurance cover and avail them zero interest mortgages every time we have a new parliament. On top of all these, we have to afford them personal securities, free offices and a free health club that they hardly use.

In the USA; you choose either to be the President, a member of the cabinet or a Congressman but not both. That is the reason Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry must resign their senate seats to serve in the Obama administration. Back here, it is a mess. The same MP is a cabinet minister, a party official, a CDF Chairman, a member of the House Business Committee and where possible, a government spokesman!

The other day I listened to that firebrand man of God; the Rev Timothy Njoya on K24 being interviewed on a range of issues in Kenya. There was one thing Njoya said that struck me. He used a rare metaphor when he described the present young MPs in Kenyan parliament as colluders rather than reformers whose mindset must be older than Jomo Kenyatta’s! This kept me thinking.

Kenyatta died in 1978 at the age of 90. Thirty years later, he would have been 120 years old and senile 100% most of the time. Now if the current crop of young MPs have the brains of Kenyatta at 120 years, then this country is in real trouble.

Njoya’s gripe with the current MPs was understandable. This lot campaigned on the basis that the 9th parliament was corrupt and selfish. A number of them promised to move bills in Parliament to reduce MPs’ salaries. William Ruto even suggested Ks 200,000 as the sealing for their salaries. However, even the loudest mouths that deafen our ears when it comes to useless crusades such as the grand opposition in Parliament have suddenly become mute when the issue of taxation has featured. That is why Njoya is calling them colluders haggling to jump on to the gravy train.
However, watching the latest developments, Kenyans can breathe a sigh of relief that all is not lost.

At least there are men and women in the august house that still have a semblance of self respect and conscience. They have stood up to be counted when it comes to the issue of taxes. And Kenyans are watching keenly how the rest of the house will respond.

Leading the pack of patriotic Kenyans is Johnson Muthama; the MP for Kangundo who has instructed the Kenya Revenue Authority to begin taxing him immediately. Others who have supported taxation for MPs are Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Ministers Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua and John Michuki. Hopefully by the end of the week, there will be more names rolling in, in support for taxation of MPs, Ministers, Constitutional office holders and judges. When this happens, there will be no bad examples for the Nairobi City Councilors to emulate.