OPINION: It’s been 3 weeks since we heard from MPs after Kenya confirmed first COVID-19 case


A general view is seen of a special Parliamentary session in Nairobi. Photo/REUTERS
A general view of a special Parliamentary session in Nairobi. Photo/REUTERS

In Summary

  • Meetings are being done on Zoom, Skype, even the new app called House Party. And before you ask, MPs are given airtime allowances and provided with laptops.
  • This is what they should be doing. not criticising the decision on revealing the identity of the recovered patients.
  • Neither is it distributing pads and sanitisers with their faces plastered on the packaging. The disaster celebrity strategy will simply not work here.

It’s been 3 weeks since we reported the first confirmed case of COVID-19. It’s also been 3 weeks since we heard from our Members of Parliament.

Also Read: Yvonne Okwara’s take on the new coronavirus: Death is the true equalizer

They adjourned a few days ahead of their scheduled break, at a time when the country needed them most.

It was only upon outcry from their representatives that they returned – at least those in the Senate. But why is there outrage over their absence?

Well, they play the important roles of oversight, legislation and representation. Their representatives depend on them.

You see, they have the privilege of access to the Health CS, the ministries concerned in this fight, even the President.

They can do this through resolutions of the House, of committees, through motions, through Bills.

Their in-tray is full. To start with, they have to debate and pass Bills to reduce PAYE, corporate tax in line with the President’s economic relief proposals.

They have to do this hopefully before mid-month which is when most companies work on their payrolls.

As part of their support of the government’s efforts, they should also oversight the monies being allocated to this fight to ensure that they are spent appropriately.

I’m talking about the Ksh.35billion given by the world bank to boost the healthcare system as it responds to emerging needs.

Or the Ksh.5billion that is to go directly towards the recruitment of healthcare officials. And what of the Ksh.75billion that we have requested from IMF to boost budgetary support?

Who will oversight these funds? Who will ensure that the generous donations that have been given to us by Jack Ma are being allocated equitably to the counties, facilities, and different frontlines that need it most?

Is that not the work of these legislators? Also, who is thinking ahead to what we will really need the most in the future, when this is all said and done?

Disruption of our planting by our farmers, the effects on food security by the locust invasion. There’s a significant disruption of the education calendar, the syllabus, our national exams.

How will we re-set this? We need our MPs to apply their minds to these questions and make proposals, while the executive fights the COVID-19 pandemic.

We need them to redirect to the health sector, funds allocated to unnecessary votes like entertainment, local and foreign travel, which by the way, run into the billions.

How can they do this? Well, they don’t need to meet physically! the world is innovating as we speak.

Meetings are being done on Zoom, Skype, even the new app called House Party. And before you ask, MPs are given airtime allowances and provided with laptops.

This is what they should be doing. not criticising the decision on revealing the identity of the recovered patients.

Neither is it distributing pads and sanitisers with their faces plastered on the packaging. The disaster celebrity strategy will simply not work here.

In the same way we say the church is not the building but the people, we can say, Parliament is not the building it is the people; the MPs.

They may do well to remember this.

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Story By Yvonne Okwara
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