Kenyan MPs get new $3,000 seats

New chairs in Kenya's parliament The chairs, weighing 50kg, have a 30-year guarantee

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Kenya's newly refurbished parliament, which has been dogged by criticism over the cost of chairs for MPs, has been opened by President Mwai Kibaki.

Costing about $3,000 (£1,900) each, the 350 red chairs were made by the country's prisons department.

The original tender was given to a company outside the country but was cancelled when some MPs discovered that each chair would cost $5,000.

Officials say the $12m renovation brings parliament into the digital age.

"The changes we are making are going to input positively in governance," parliamentary speaker Kenneth Marende told the BBC.

He said electronic voting would let MPs vote according to their conscience rather than be forced to vote in a certain way by party whips.

"Now the member will be completely on his own, he will be independent, he will make up his mind and just press a button."

'Completely ridiculous'

The BBC's Odeo Sirari in the capital, Nairobi, says some refer to the chairs as the most expensive parliamentary seats in the Commonwealth.

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki seated in parliament (archive shot) MPs in Kenya are among the highest paid in Africa

MPs crowded into the renovated chamber, which can now also be connected by video link to other parliaments, as the president and the speaker led proceedings during the opening ceremony.

There were a few technical hitches during the first session.

With the new set-up MPs no longer need to jostle to get the speaker's attention, but some of them pressed their buttons without knowing it and others did not do so when they were required to.

"This is a problem of technology - but we'll get used to it," one MP quipped when he eventually mastered the PA system.

The refurbishment began in April 2010 and was scheduled to take one year to complete but this was delayed because of the controversy that surrounded the costing and tendering process, our reporter says.

MP John Mbadi, on the public investments committee, led the uproar over the original order.

"We couldn't understand how members of parliament would sit on a seat costing about 400,000 Kenyan shillings - about $5,000 - that by any standards could put up some small house for someone," he told the BBC.

"It was just completely ridiculous," he said.

Our reporter says many argued the eventual cost of the chairs was still too high.

David Langat, who looks after industrial activities within Kenyan prisons, said all the materials were sourced locally but the chair moulds were expensive.

He told the BBC the chairs, which weigh more than 50kg each, were fireproof and came with a 30-year guarantee.

At the moment Kenya has 220 members of parliament, but the chamber has been fitted with 350 chairs - the number of MPs to be elected next March under the country's new constitution.

Kenyan MPs have often been criticised for giving themselves salary increases - they are among the highest paid in Africa, earning nearly $10,000 a month.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    What in the world is wrong with our leaders. There are so many hungry people all around with young ones dying and they have the guts to go buy seats worth $3000 a piece. To hear of it, there some people on here saying we should give them a break. Excuse me, do you know the hardship in Africa. I'm highly upset this morning. I am an african and this is a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Another example of MPs being profligate with taxpayer money. Whether in the UK, the US, the EU, India or Africa, politicians like to dole out money for themselves. Let's put our own house in order first. The UK still has a monarchy for God's sake. Millions of pounds for a family that only has entertainment value. Let's get ourselves the Kardashians: They cost no taxpayer money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    We can all see the folly in this... each and everyone of us, but the MP's in Kenya. I should know, they are my MP's... I voted for two of them... My area MP and the President... How best to make them accountable after the elections..this is my problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The seats may be on the expensive, but you need to give them a break. Kenya does have a budget that is heavily funded by its own tax payers unlike its fellow counterparts in the regional block and should therefore be at will to spend as it wishes

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    That UK contributed to Kenyan parliament seats is misplaced, not only is it colonial, but its ignorant. Recently the Queen spent billions for her jubilee, thou righteousness said Nada,while the world is still suffering with needy all over. Why didn't such go to feed the needy? African spends a $, the whole world asks is it my penny? gotta have lots to give don't you from the loots of colonial era?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Will this lead to MP's voting according to their conscience, instead of following the policy of the party whips? Anonymous voting at any level of Government can mean no accountability and can lead to approval of dodgy schemes or lead to wages and expenses of MP's being increased,

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    You may well find that the UK taxpayer paid for some or all of these through DfID (Dept for International Development) funding.

    I'm afraid this mentality is replicated across most African states.

    Corruption / luxury for the few at the top, and poverty and starvation for the majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Typical Africa! Show a few hungry faces and the aid floods in. Then crooked politicians can sit on their fat bums and spend Africa's $ on themselves. The cost of $5k p/chair was from the politicians so his cousins who run the prisons did it for $3k. How many African countries ever sent aid to the west to feed the many homeless and poor? And before you get shirty, i was born in Africa!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Can anybody answer these questions: What have other governments paid for similar seats when refurbishing? Does the price of the seats include setting up digital voting or is it just for the mould and the materials for the chair?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The seats were made in Kenya by KENYAN artisans. For once, the $3,000 stayed in Kenya. For such a project i say Kudos Kenyans!! The seats were made for Kenyan citizens, any KENYAN who can be voted in by Kenyan people will seat in cut it out you foreign critics!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Sagat4, I am Kenyan, and I can't even agree with what you wrote. It's the tax payer's money, not the country's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Sagat14 - maybe if they are doing this with their own money they therefore won't mind if we reduce UK overseas aid to Kenya by the same amount. 350 chairs @ $3000 = $1.05m saved.

    Stick that saving down to me Mr PM

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Where in the piece did you get the idea that the seats were purchased with foreign aid? Your comment about giving India foreign aid & it used it for nuclear weapons shows your ignorance & typical uninformed/stereotypical views many in the West have of developing countries. News flash! The West benefit tremendously from developing countries natural&mineral resources. Especially Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Still cant get over this issue....when i think of the needs in my town that would cost less than the cost of this seats. This was totally unnesessary. Am sure they over priced the seats and the tender was with a relative of the ministers or the ministers themselves. what a disgrace.!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Whether or not this is funded by the west is irrelevant, it just further proves that these countries will never be able to escape their current situations whilst such horribly corrupt figures control proceedings. Visiting kenya is a great experience, but it becomes immediately apparent just how little the ruling class/tribe(s) care about the rest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    sagat4 is correct, but, that is an irresponsible amount of money to be spending on chairs when you compare that to the average persons wages in Kenya. It is also very likely that, as in most of these cases, a substantial amount of the money was diverted into other pockets. Corruption is rife in Kenya & Africa. Reducing corruption is the most important goal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Lets hope that we don't send aid to Kenya. What a waste!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Those ugly seats actually cost $3,000 each? They look like seats you'll find at carnivals or amusement parks. There seems to be no reason or ryme to the choice of color or design. Kenya has no orange in its flag. Not sure where the orange color comes from or what it represent. What a total waste of taxpayers, money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    It is mos likely the government paid for this using its own money. Some people in the West (and on these boards as we can see) assume that Africa is dirt poor and cannot do anything without foreign aid. I do agree that the price is excessive but it is their money and they can spend as they wish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    totally ridiculous....ludicrous ministers.


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