Kenya: MPs' Trip a Mockery of Austerity Measures

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, Speakers Justin Muturi, National Assembly, and Kenneth Lusaka, Senate, and Chief Justice David Maraga arrive at parliament in Nairobi for the President's State of the Nation address, April 4, 2019.

Parliament is on the spot once again over an extravagant trip that cannot be justified in any way. This time round, Parliament wants to send some 85 MPs and Members of Country Assemblies plus a galaxy of other auxiliary staff for a conference in the US.

Attending conferences or international meetings is not a problem. That is part of international collaboration, networking and experiential learning. But they must be justifiable.

In the first place, one cannot explain how a single country can ferry such a huge delegation to an international conference where participation is always limited to just a few.

What is it that the huge contingent is going to do? Countries are only given a few speaking slots that require just a few representatives.

Even if they were to participate in side meetings, they are never that many slots. Ideally and good manners so dictate, you only need a small team, no more than five representatives to attend such conventions. Not a multitude plus unwieldy team of parliamentary staff.

Second, what are the benefits that the country will derive from such a meeting? If it is presentations, a few can do. If it is learning and knowledge transfer, just a few representatives would go and prepare a report to share with the entire Parliament and for that matter, the country at large.

Unfortunately, from past experience, delegates who attend those international conferences hardly prepare reports and if they do, they are so shoddily done that they do not help anybody. Largely, the delegates are out for holiday-making and sight-seeing, not serving the public interest. That is unacceptable.

Third and fundamentally, the country is reeling from tough economic times. Cost-cutting and austerity is the in-thing. Various arms of government have had to cut their expenditures as the National Treasury restructures spending to keep the economy afloat.

At present, there is a stalemate between the Senate and the National Assembly over financial allocation to the counties on the premise the Treasury is broke. Major capital development projects are being shelved as the budget is being reorganised to release cash for priority expenditures. In the circumstance, it is patently injudicious and imprudent for Parliament to engage in profligate spending.

Several foreign embassies in Nairobi have expressed disdain at Kenyan politicians and top government officials' obsession with travelling to their countries under all manner of pretext, but which visits never yield tangible benefits to Kenyans.

Speakers Justin Muturi and Ken Lusaka must do the honourable thing and rationalise the trip. Only a few MPs should travel, if they must, and on the condition they will submit a report to Parliament. We must stop such largesse when everybody else is making sacrifices.

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