Monday, July 19, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

July 16, 2010

To the best of my knowledge, Parliament is a unique arm of government that cannot afford to behave like a rogue elephant in the wild. Since it is elected by the people of Kenya, it must constantly listen to the voices of Kenyans.

At all times in our mind of minds, we elect our leaders to the National Assembly to watch over our resources and our interests. We do this religiously and ritually every five years to ensure that the Executive that collects our taxes does not squander them on useless and unproductive projects. We expect MPs to keep an eye on the Executive to ensure our taxes are not misappropriated or squandered by unethical operatives in our governance system. It had the noble intension of dismantling an imperial presidency. Unfortunately, it would appear like the pendulum swung to the extreme right and stopped there and the moral objective of its formation went through the window.

When Kenyans see the first signs that these noble intentions are violated by the very Parliament we have entrusted with our watchdog role, we have every right to raise alarm.

About a decade ago, MPs came up with a bright idea then to change laws relating to Parliament to give it more teeth and autonomy in being a better watchdog. This decision was taken well before Moi relinquished power. It was Moi’s authoritarian and undemocratic behavior that forced the Eighth Parliament to do something about the autonomy and independence of Parliament.

Following this discontent among MPs and the general public with Moi’s autocracy, the Parliamentary Service Commission was established in 1999 under the provision of Section 45(A) of the Constitution of Kenya. And in order to give teeth to the Commission, Parliament went ahead and enacted the Parliamentary Service Act in the year2000 and subsequently issued the Parliamentary Service Commission Regulations. Subsequently, Section 45(B) of the Constitution created the Parliamentary Service Commission composed of ten members with the Speaker of the National Assembly as the Chairman, Leader of the Official Opposition Party and Leader of Government Business as ex-officio Members. Seven other members were to come from Backbenchers four of whom were to come from the Government side while the remaining three were to come from the Opposition side.

All these instruments that created the Parliamentary Service Commission had the noble and express objective of insulating the National Assembly, its staff and facilities from unwanted and unwelcome interference from any other branches of the Government.

The question to ask right now is this: Has Parliament succeeded in insulating itself from unwanted and unwelcome interference from other arms of government. Indeed it has with a very high level of success. The only question that still begs answers is whether the Kenyan public has benefitted from this insulation.

A look at the current Parliamentary Service Charter that must be read together with the current PSC Strategic Plan 2008-2018 quickly reveals the fault lines that have made Parliament fail in inspiring the majority of Kenyans since that fateful day in January 2003 when their first business of the House was ton hike their salaries and allowances by 100%.

When one reads what the PSC has put down as their corporate Mission and Vision statements, one understands why MPs have not inspired Kenyans because these statements have no connection to Kenyans.

The PSC Mission Statement stipulates that the PSC is there to facilitate MPs to effectively and efficiently fulfill their constitutional mandate by ensuring the autonomy of Parliament in its corporate relationship with other arms of government. The public does not feature at all in their Mission Statement. On the other hand its Vision Statement is pretty blunt; to be supreme, efficient and self sustaining.

Seen together, both the mission and vision statements have nothing to do with Kenyans. As long as MPs can be facilitated sufficiently to maintain their supreme status in society, all will be fine with the august house.

In its core values, the PSC purports to foster patriotism, peace and national unity, however, if one has witnessed the number of street demonstrations and picketing against Parliament, if one can gauge the level of public anger against that august house especially over their salaries and allowances from time to time, one wonders whether this core value is attainable in the foreseeable future.

The other core value that has become an uphill task for the PSC to achieve is the highest ethical standards. In an establishment where MPs continually fight the Executive and blackmails it from time to time to increase their bloated packages cannot be expected to uphold ethical standards.

This august house claims to maintain honesty, accountability and integrity in the delivery of services having regard to the economy yet since its inception it has never published its audited accounts.

How can this commission claim equality and fairness yet since its inception in 2000, it has never had a woman MP as one of its commissioners?

As it is now constituted since 2008, it has never had two crucial members such as the Leader of Government Business and Leader of the Official Opposition. In their absence, it would appear like the Speaker who chairs it has assumed unprecedented powers that make him do almost anything he wants to do. Is it any wonder that the mobile phone bills for one senior PSC member runs into hundreds of thousands of shillings yet nobody can dare question such extravagance? Is it any wonder that a weekend bill for the hire of a chopper for a high ranking PSC official can cost the tax payer Ksh 950,000 per weekend yet even the Clerk cannot query such extravagance? Is this the kind of Parliament Kenyans really desire?