Kenyans were recently treated to a rare and most unfortunate TV show when a Member of Parliament publicly accused her colleague of fraudulently claiming fuel allowances and being part of a parliamentary ‘mileage cartel’.
The show on Citizen TV was chaotic and had to take an abrupt break. The fact that two MPs were letting the cat out of the bag that some MPs may be manipulating the system to extract as much money, would it be wrong for Kenyans to assume that we were living in an ethically collapsed society?
Indeed, a few days before the altercation on TV, the Auditor General had raised queries over suspected irregular payment of mileage claims to MPs by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC). In a recent trip overseas, I encountered a similar blast when a travel agent recounted the exploitative behaviour of some of our MPs. She explained how some Kenyan leaders keep flocking into the country and go as far as acquiring fake receipts to claim reimbursements.
Such leaders are not just manipulating government systems they are in fact manipulating all 50 million Kenyans. The fraudulently reimbursed money comes from government coffers, funded by the taxpayer.
As a first measure to curtail such extravagance, I suggest that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) re-looks at allowances for state officers. These allowances must be capped at modest figures that should be as low as half the current rates.
After all, many leaders usually stay in three-star hotels or even lower-ranked hotels when they travel so that they can save as much money as possible.
The able Madam Nancy Gathungu, the Auditor General has her team’s work cut out because her office exists to promote accountability in the management of public resources. They must ensure meticulous investigations to identify and call out the leaders who abuse the system to reap where they haven’t sown. I suggest the hash tag #OperationJazaJela!
But before we cast a stone at our political leaders, we must realise that we, Kenyans, are their enablers. They merely reflect us. For instance, in Kenya today, there are farmers who will never eat what they plant because they know the harmful nature of the chemicals they use on those vegetables, but happily sell the same to fellow Kenyans. Last year, Kenyatta University conducted a study which revealed how some tomato farmers overuse certain pesticides and consequently endanger the health of Kenyans.
Remember that Latin proverb ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei’ which means, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God.’ This proverb reminds us that we as a people have immense potential to effect good in our society. We the people are the real leaders. We lead the leaders. The reason many leaders don’t exercise servant leadership is because we have abdicated our role as their masters. Indeed, politics is too important to be left to politicians alone. It is we, the people who must dictate the tone, content and composition of our politics.
The solution to our collapsing society is therefore not complicated – it is the basic idea known as patriotism. We begin to rebuild a collapsing society by loving our nation and doing unto others as what we would like them to do to us.
That is what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he told us to be the change we want to see in society. We can achieve such a changemaker mindset through introspection. Introspection entails taking a long, hard look at ourselves. Introspection is the flashlight that we can use to illuminate our intentions; our driving force; our own shortcomings. Introspection will help you change the only person that you can truly change – yourself.
Indeed, the only way that Kenyans can fix their collapsed society is first of all by fixing themselves. This can only happen when you think and act green!