The 2018 Soccer World Cup mascot outside the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia. Picture: REUTERS
The 2018 Soccer World Cup mascot outside the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia. Picture: REUTERS

Nairobi — Kenyans voiced outrage on Thursday as it emerged that a group of MPs had gone to the World Cup at the taxpayers’ expense, even though the country had failed to qualify for the tournament.

The scandal erupted after some of the legislators posted selfies on social media of themselves at matches in Russia.

"Isn’t that a big, bad joke, that leaders can travel all the way to Russia to watch football when we have a lot of problems here?" asked Sylvester Aseka, who sells computers in Nairobi.

"Oh my God, I want to believe that is not true, the pictures some of them are posting," said Jacinta Mong’ina, 26, a student.

"It means they have a lot of time and resources to go to Russia. When will they serve their constituents?"

The Star daily newspaper reported that about 20 MPs had travelled to Russia at the start of the month and were expected to attend Sunday’s final. The cost of accommodation, per diems and match tickets was being carried by the government, it said.

The Star’s estimate of the total cost was $450,000. By comparison, the minimum wage in Kenya is between $120 and $280 per month, depending on the level of skill.

In parliament, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi confirmed the trip but said it was "not a bad thing".

"They must prepare a report when they come back and table it in parliament. That’s the standard procedure," he said.

According to The Star, Senate clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye called the trip "official business".

"It is their responsibility to understand sports, how to host such international tournaments. This is not a holiday and it is too simplistic to look at it as a joyrider mission," he reportedly said.

Kenya’s Harambee Stars have never reached the World Cup finals and have not qualified for any major international tournament since the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.

Kenya’s MPs — among the highest paid in the world — have often rubbed public opinion up the wrong way over their salary demands.