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
    +1

    Comment number 109.

    Okay, I think I want the money back which we give in aid donations over the past 10 years and I certainly don't want to give them any more.

    A corrupt country, with bent MP's, a dishonest judiciary who abuse their positions and a totally feeble Police Force who frequently have an open hand. It was better run when it was part of the Brit's Empire! (I bet that gets some of you going)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 108.

    The ejector seat mechanism increased the cost substantially.

    Still they can afford it, they have a huge income from foreign aid which is meant to keep them in the life style of the western countries, we are all equal and rich phylosophy. They also need to look the part when they go shopping, sorry I mean begging, no sorry I meant money raising business trips to other countries.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 107.

    Another example of the corruption by these overpaid (by any standard or by any country in the world). These people not only don't live in the same world as other Kenyans, they don't live in the same world as anybody else.

    MP's are meant to be there to help their electors, not to line their pockets. The corruption in this country in literally unbelievable

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 106.

    I am sure they'll help productivity. Such a seat would help us HYS people here pontificate harder and for longer.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 105.

    If MPs are making that much money, they should work hard as part of their daily job to stop bribery, especially with police on the street in every parts of the country.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 104.

    101. The $100 million a years donations are going towards what the tax was supposed to pay for. If you want to run your country how you like you can do it without UK aid.

    I think many citizens would happily give up the aid for better governance, to avoid political interference, a chance to develop their economy sustainably and to be treated fairly in trade and other international negotiations.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 103.

    "39. TonyL
    7TH AUGUST 2012 - 14:52
    In the last 5 years, the UK has donated $ 590 MILLION US Dollars to Kenya!"

    Now you'd have thought we'd have donated GBP wouldn't you!?

    They better have got a good conversion rate otherwise I'll be angry. Afterall, I'm not here to give a profit to Travelex now am I?!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 102.

    Never mind a ‘comfy’ chair... an ‘electric’ chair would be more appropriate!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 101.

    30.engineer
    the seats may b expensive yes bt doesn't give u foreign critics right to criticise how we run our country, for ur information the taxpayers r the one fundin them not ur donations!!!!

    The $100 million a years donations are going towards what the tax was supposed to pay for. If you want to run your country how you like you can do it without UK aid.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 100.

    The cost of the moulds should have been considered a capital cost and should not have been transfered to the Parliament. I suppose the prison department can and will use the moulds to make chairs for other potential clients moreover not just in Kenya

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 99.

    I could have supplied leather chairs with inbuilt massagers for 1,000 USD! I'd say why not for all the hard work our politicians put in for us!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 98.

    People are saying Put their money were their mouth is, which is why they bought new seats, considering they all talk out of their arse. Anyway, something needs to be done about this, each seat costs 1.9k that would feed a family for a staggering amount of time. Well its always good to see were your money given to charity goes to.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    African parliarmentarians are so blind to the need of their people. All they want is how to siphone money.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 96.

    Wow, these seats must be the "Mercedes" of all seats! Hope they do not cause some of the M.P's to fall a sleep during long sessions of listening to whatever they like debating in there, the controversy is over the price of each seat, but then we have different cultures of power some places I hear the crown on the Queens head costs how much to wear?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 95.

    lol...you guys are funny! How does 3k chairs look like?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 94.

    'we are not so heartless as to rip the Kenyan people off to the tune of $5000'.

    So we decided to do it for $3000.

    What?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 93.

    I am glad they can now sleep comfortably.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 92.

    @91 I actually thought they looked pretty good. Better than the stuff we made in my high school woodwork class in Rowley Regis, UK ! But agreed, $3k?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 91.

    @90
    Yeah man, it's just that...look at those chairs. They don't look like $3k chairs do they? Heck they don't even look better than air line chairs. Southwest air line chairs, and those are bad bad chairs.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 90.

    From the article, I'm not clear how these chairs cost $3000 each. Payscale.com says that an assistant account in Kenya earns $4708 per year. I guess the prison wages must be good, the materials expensive, or they take a long time to make. Despite of the cost, making them in the prisons is still a good idea.

 

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