Oppose A Bloated Cabinet In Kenya

It is astonishing to hear that some crazy person, or people have suggested a Kenya Cabinet size of 44. According to the 2007/8 budget the total cost of running 34 ministries this year is Ksh 299.6 billion (an average of Ksh 8 billion per ministry per annum). 

Using the same average cost, 44 Ministries might cost you and I about Ksh 387 billion.  Are you prepared to fork out another 100 billion shillings or so every year to accommodate your Member of Parliament’s desire to have a flag and to be called “Waziri”?

Let’s be clear, MPs were elected to represent us, not to agitate for wasteful government expenditure in the name of power sharing.  Certainly, they are not meant to be inciting Government to spend Ksh 100 billion more for no serious purpose beyond contriving to get Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to give them sinecures at public expense.

If you read the 2007/2008 Estimates of Recurring Expenditure of the Government of Kenya, you will find that Ksh 100 billion per year is equivalent to Kenya’s current annual public debt repayments.  Ksh 100 billion would finance the youth fund for 100 years and the women’s fund for 50 years.  Ksh 100 billion would build ten 10-lane highways each of 50 km of length – the distance between Nairobi and Thika.  It is twice the aid in loans and grants received from bilateral partners for development; and four times all the grants Kenya receives from multilaterals such as the World Bank.

We cannot afford to spend Ksh 100 billion this year on a bloated government. We have better things to do with our money.  What has the GOK done about IDPs who are still living in tents and being chased from place to place by GOK security personnel whenever they dare to complain about their abysmal living conditions?  Nothing. 

What provision is really being made for the resettlement and welfare of these unfortunate fellow citizens?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Do the people negotiating the size of the Cabinet have even a spare thought for the IDPs?   I doubt it. Ksh 100 Billion is two times as much as we all lost because of corruption in Anglo Leasing.  It is twice the amount of money Treasury will raise from the sale of public shares in Safaricom.  In fact it is equivalent to at least 5 years of Safaricom’s profit at 17 billion shillings.

Kenya needs a good government not a big one.  Today noone seriously argues that we have a good government in place.  In fact, and here I am suggesting a vetting methodology for high offices, only 7 of the current Ministers would pass the test of not being adversely mentioned in PAC, PIC, KACC reports, or adverse court judgements.  At over 30 Ministries (larger and better paid at top level than any World power) we already have a big government.  Who is trying to get us to pay more for an even larger cabinet?  For how long can we continue this way?

In my opinion, we need no more than 12 Ministries with one Assistant each. The rest of the Members of Parliament should represent us as they were voted, and are paid quite handsomely, to do from the Back Benches on both sides.  We need good honest technocrats to run the public service for the benefit of the public with minimal political interference by temporary ministers.  We need to stop pampering politicians who only recently caused us all to have the life threatening, or near death experience that we euphemistically call the “post election crisis”. 

On this point many of those jostling and lining up for positions at our expense ought properly to be investigated for their individual roles in the making of this crisis.  What were many of them doing in the run-up to the election of December 27th 2007?  Where were many of them when we needed them to help Kenyans?  Who has mismanaged our public resources in the past, present and in the near future if we don’t stop them?  Indeed these are questions we should be focusing our energy in answering.

Our immediate and priority concern should be directed to the poorest and not the wealthiest Kenyans.  Nearly twenty million Kenyans live on less than Ksh 64 per day.  That means they will make no more or have no more to spend than Ksh 25,000 in a whole year.  And that is for families!  These are the Kenyans we should be spending money on.  I would prefer to spend 100 billion shillings this coming year on poor Kenyans rather than continuing to fatten political sacred cows.

Finally, the only reason such a proposal is even seeing the light of day is the fact that despite the clear provisions of section 16 of the Constitution, Parliament has never made a law to establish and determine the number and portfolios of the Cabinet.  Never – in 45 years!  Is this the reason why there is no outrage from our elected MPs about the abuse of authority and culture of sinecures which has persisted in Kenya since the days of Jomo Kenyatta?

Mwalimu Mati
CEO, www.marsgroupkenya.org

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