Ensure taxpayers get value from foreign trips

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 08:18 |
Parliament in session. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

In six short years, Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) have become the symbol of greed and wastefulness in Kenya. While they are not the only ones on a spending spree, it is the flaunty manner in which they go about the “eating” that has exposed them to public criticism. 

MCAs have never been short of excuses to spend taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Besides the numerous junkets in and outside the country, they are always attending one workshop or another, from which they draw unreasonable allowances.

Every year, this mindless spending is reflected in the reports of the Auditor General and Controller of Budget, with most counties overshooting the set ceiling in travel budgets and sitting allowances. 

For example, a report of the Controller of Budget released early this year revealed that counties had spent Sh2.6 billion in three months between June and September last year. According to the report, the amount had risen from Sh1.02 billion in the same period the previous year.

What is worrying is that most of the expenditure is not justified, nor can the trips be said to give value for money. If anything, some of the trips that MCAs make are either a reward for being on the good books of the county executive or a bribe to entice them to do the bidding of the governor.

Worse, many MCAs have found themselves in trouble with the law for signing for, and cashing, allowances for trips that they did not make. Some have also been known to attend workshops or committee meetings technically, just to qualify for allowances. Which is why Devolution Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli’s directive that all trips taken by MCAs and county executives must henceforth be justified, is long overdue. There is need to rein in the greed in counties if devolution will deliver on its promise—to transform Kenya through equitable distribution of the national cake. 

But the crackdown on untenable spending must not end with the MCAs or at the counties. The truth is that MCAs are an unabashed face of a spendthrift political class and public service, which rarely think twice before running amok with the country’s meagre resources.

For a country that is up to the neck in debt, we cannot afford our leaders’ tastes. The onus is, therefore, on the President and parliamentary leadership to ensure that all expenditure is an investment, whose returns will have a positive impact on the lives of Kenyans.

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