We cannot trust politicians to headline constitutional review

We cannot trust politicians to headline constitutional review

The country has just borrowed another Sh210 billion from the international market, bringing our total debt value to figures above Sh5 trillion. A third of it will be used to repay the first portion of the 2014 Eurobond, due on June 24. The remaining will go towards plugging a Sh635 billion size hole in the 2019/20 budget.

Lest it be forgotten, the Eurobond we are servicing is the same one whose spending remains a mystery. Government says it either spent it on development without giving specifics, or ask for time to explain.
Pressed, it may point to the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project that swallowed billions only to abandoned midway, a beautiful highway in Baringo County which motorists seldom use; an ambitious programme to expand the pipeline network which has resulted in a Sh7 billion scandal at the ministry of Energy; or a similar programme at the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited where more than Sh6 billion was lost in illegal contracts. It’s a proper conundrum.
We haven’t even discussed the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project where, after sinking some Sh74 billion in construction costs and an extra Sh5 billion in fees, the firm could only realize 40 MW against the 310 MW it promised.
Looking at the Republic’s problems and the referendum debate surrounding them, the mind can’t help but stray to those few days in Naivasha, 2010 when MPs sacrificed a decent document in the Harmonised Draft Constitution at the altar of politics. The Harmonised draft was a constitution of the ages. It was a product of great endeavour, well-reasoned and innovative. Within it were solutions to very Kenyan problems which, if adopted as the Committee of Experts intended, would have saved this country so much.

Choices and consequences
The Harmonised Draft Constitution borrowed heavily from the Bomas Draft before it. Inter alia, it contemplated a hybrid system of government that would accommodate as many interests as possible; a balanced Legislature within which the Senate stood slightly above the National Assembly in terms of composition and responsibility; an empowered parliament, sovereignty of the people; supremacy of the Constitution; new phenomena in constitutional values, chapters on the Bill of rights and Leadership and Integrity and an elaborate system of checks and balances.
To curb Executive excesses, Article 253 decreed that the National Government would not borrow money, guarantee a loan or receive a grant unless the terms of the transaction were laid before and approved by both houses. Whenever required, the Finance Minister would also furnish parliament with information regarding the total indebtness by way of principle and accumulated interest; how the proceeds of the loan were used; the provisions made for servicing the loan and the progress made in the repayment of the loan. Aggregate borrowing for each financial year was to be regulated by an act of parliament.
It is not difficult to imagine the losses the Republic would have been saved had these provisions seen the light of day. The MPs did away with Article 253 leaving the Executive with free-reign to borrow and enter into financial arrangements with external entities at the expense of the socio-economic health
of the Republic.
Fearful of the danger they posed to their personal finances, the MPs also deleted provisions stopping parliament from legislating in its favour and paralysed the Chapter on Leadership and Integrity, which, inter alia, required state officers to declare their wealth and directed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to maintain a public register of the assets owned by state officers.
Finally on this issue, MPs deleted provisions requiring sanctions against individuals and companies who failed to honour contractual agreements, professionally regulated procedures or law. Thanks to that cabal, the country is now at the mercy of rogue contractors.
While Providence has given us an opportunity to correct these errors in the now certain referendum; we must take care not to repeat the mistakes of January 2010. The enduring lesson of the farce at Naivasha is that politicians cannot be trusted with headlining the constitutional review process. If the constitution has to be amended then the exercise must be intellectually driven, all-inclusive and focused on a holistic improvement. Sorting out
the executive alone isn’t what we are looking for. (

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