Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A REFERENDUM TO SCRAP THE SENATE OR MERGE SMALL CONSTITUENCIES WILL HELP REDUCE THE PUBLIC WAGE BURDEN

There is no doubt, the current constitution is better than the one we had. However, the crafters failed to adhere to one fundamental aspect: the ramifications of the bloated legislature and its impact on the national exchequer.

So far, we need to applause the Jubilee government for crafting a lean Cabinet, but the raging debate on the wage bill isn’t something that can be wished away when the national economic indicators reflect a downward trend.

Just recently, the Controller of Budget Ms Agnes Odhiambo, publicily expressed how the Country is being drained on paying salaries instead of development projects. This was the clearest indication that a small government is a panacea for Kenya’s economic success.

It’s through downsizing the public workforce and scrapping unnecessary bureaucracies nationally and at the County levels that Kenya can move forward to become a developed Country.

On the current constitution, we all know that laws are not carved on stones but formed by humans to be changed, augmented, scrapped or improved to suit prevailing governance systems and processes.

It can be remembered that former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, hinted during the referendum that any anomalies can be rectified after the passage of the current constitution.

Therefore, since it was not a perfect document during its passage by the Kenyan masses, it means that it can be subjected to amendments to suit the needs of the Country.

The debate to downsize the national assembly has come at the right time when the country is gearing to celebrate 50 years of nationhood. It’s therefore healthy for Kenyans to point out the pros and cons of the current constitution in order to streamline the faulty areas through a referendum.

We need to look at how to scale down the bloated legislator, especially Parliament and see if the country real needs the Senate. There is no reason why Kenya; a nation of 40 million people should have 358 Members of Parliament and 67 Senators. It will make a lot of sense if we either scrap the Senate or reduce the current constituencies by merging them.

Additionally, weird as it may sound; if we had transformed the 8 provinces into Counties, it would have saved the treasury huge expenditure costs because, as it stands today, funding 47 Counties has proved to be a burden. Besides, it’s emerging that the Counties; once touted as the pillars of development are proving to be pillars of disunity and clanism especially those with one ethnic group like Gusiiland where we have Kisii and Nyamira Counties.

Secondly, we need to abolish the apportioning of seats to special interest groups in the Senate and Parliament because, it doesn’t serve any purpose. Laws are not made to benefit a particular group but to serve all every Kenyans fairly, justifiably and with impartiality.

Instead of apportioning seats for special interest groups, we need to strengthen our laws so that every person is empowered through equity and equality. In fact, when the interests of all Kenyans are catered for in the constitution; irrespective of their status, gender, creed, age, physical or mental abilities, we don’t need affirmative action in the legislature for women, youth or persons with disabilities.

Take for instance if our electoral body (IEBC) ensured that vulnerable candidates like youth, women and persons with disabilities were provided with a level playing field during election campaigns, we shall not be talking about merely nominating these groups to the Senate or Parliament.

Otherwise, if the trend is not halted, it will continue to reflect us as a Country with no regard to her vulnerable population. It’s just a piecemeal to merely nominate these people to the Senate or Parliament under the aegis of addressing their interests when we don’t have solid laws which protects all them across the board.

On restructuring our legislature to save tax payers, I support the deputy Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, who brought up the debate during the burial of former Juja MP George Thuo last week. We need such mature bipartisan approach to scale down government expenditure.

This united spirit to reduce waste is pegged on the national good to help the growth of our economy and therefore, must be pursued from all political aisles - Cord and Jubilee.

I believe that our legislators will help us pursue a path to reduce government spending if they truly care about Kenya. As it stands, we will gnash our teeth to service the current structures under the aegis of devolution if we can’t revise the status quo.

The duplication of roles is also another area that needs to be looked into both at the national and county governments. In the Counties, there is glaring waste … no definite role for the County commissioners when we have elected Governors. This has often created not only a waste of funds but also conflict of interests between the two offices; thereby hampering service delivery.

It’s also worthy to note that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) need to be given more muscles to restructure the salaries of public servants without unnecessary contests especially the one we experienced recently from the members of Parliament.

Finally, a stitch in time saves nine. Flaws in the current constitution have emerged before Kenyans can access its fruits. The best way to go is to have a referendum in order to fix the anomalies.
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