Taxpayers will shoulder Sh300 million bill for Members of Parliament who will participate in sports in Bujumbura, Burundi, beginning today. The money in question will be spent on a delegation that includes the legislators, their personal assistants, secretaries and parliamentary staff to cater for air tickets, allowances and accommodation at the East African Community Ninth Inter Parliamentary Group Tournament.
The details of the trip remained scanty, though the National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) had sold out its seats from November 28 to December 4 for flights from Nairobi to Bujumbura and a return for December 10 and 11 possibly as a result of the Kenyan delegation going to Bujumbura. By yesterday, return tickets on the national career’s website had been priced at Sh50,000.
The most junior individual in the delegation will pocket at least Sh600,000 in accrued allowances over the 10-day sporting event. The highest paid members of the delegation, who are the legislators, may make millions in allowances. Up to 300 MPs will go to Bujumbura.
This amount is exclusive of all transport and accommodation costs. When contacted, Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye was a bit economical with the details of the tournament, insisting that the team representing the country was smaller. “There are very many disciplines representing the August House. We have football, volleyball men and women tug of war, netball and athletes among others,” said Nyegenye. He denied sending a big team, insisting that those traveling are all players.
But Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria has faulted Parliament over the big number going to attend the games. “Kenya is indeed a great sporting nation. Staring this weekend for the next ten days, Kenya is sending lean team of 320 senators, members of the National Assembly and parliamentary staff for the games,” he was sarcastic.
He continued: “I have no doubts we will do well in such sports as tug of war where our contingent is particularly large and strong. Bring the medals home, guys. Make every penny of the Sh400 million expenditure count. Uganda Tanzania Rwanda and Burundi must know people.” National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and clerk Michael Sialai went ahead of the party for the official opening yesterday.
The theme of the event is “Accelerating a people-centered EAC by connecting parliamentarians and citizens through sports.” Some MPs are now saying if indeed Parliament is interested in reducing its expenditure, it should not have sent such a big delegation to Burundi. Some activities scheduled for next week has been rescheduled to allow the MPs from both Houses to participate in the games.
Githunguri MP Gabriel Kago Mukuha said that there was an executive committee set up with representatives from the Senate and the National Assembly to draw the list of those going. At a time President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for austerity measures and MPs boycotting committees complaining of cash crunch in Parliament, the trip could be an avenue for them to get extra cash.
National Assembly clerk Michael Sialai also confirmed Kenya’s attendance at the event. He indicated that all those in trip are players and substitutes. “We have many disciplines and our have players,” said Sialai but he didn’t give the total figure, cost of accommodation or air tickets. Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma who plays in the Bunge football team said apart from the games, the legislators will seek to promote regional integration.
“We also identify a project such orphanages in each country where the games are held and assist using contributions made by each country,” he added. He said the team’s captains chose their players, who included at least three subordinate staff and medical office. He argued that last year, Kenya sent the largest delegation to Tanzania for the games, more than their host. By yesterday, some of the football team members had not left despite the fact their game against Burundi is scheduled for today 3.30pm.
“KQ has only flight to Bujumbura daily and its fully booked,” said Kaluma. “The offices of the clerks approved the lists. Those approved to travel are players. This time there is no room for joyriders. This event for inter parliamentary games, we have made sure no extra are tagged a long,” said a senior parliamentary official. He continued: “The trips are staggered. Those traveling will leave of the day of their tournament. The heads of the teams and organisers traveled earlier to finish plans for the participants.”
At a pre-conference held at Africa Conference Centre yesterday, EAC Inter-Parliamentary Group Games chairperson Susan Nakawuki and other officials from the Burundi government were expected to give talks on how the sports connect parliamentarians and citizens in the region.
MPs have in the past run into trouble over trips viewed as waste of public funds. During the World Cup in Russia, MPs were bashed for spending public money to watch the games only to table a ‘copy and paste’ report, which has had no impact on the ailing sports sector.
MPs appetite for fat pay has seen them back the Parliamentary Service Bill which will give them powers to increase perks and allowances and improve their overall welfare. The welfare package include mileage, increased mortgage from current Sh20million, expanded medical scheme to more than Sh10million, increased car grant from the current Sh5million, restaurant service similar to five star hotel, modern gym with trained massagers and modern offices in Nairobi and constituencies among others.