Nairobi — The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has hit out at members of the National Assembly "for bullying" the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to increase their pay.
The legislators have been complaining that a monthly salary of over Sh500,000 plus other benefits was too low, and on Thursday an MP filed a petition in Parliament seeking to have the SRC commissioners removed from office.
KNCHR Acting Chairperson Anne Munyiva said some MPs were bent on serving their own selfish interests noting that they would not only take home Sh535,000 per month, but also enjoy low interest rates, attractive medical covers and a variety of other exclusive benefits.
The MPs have an in-patient cover worth Sh10 million and an out-patient cover of Sh300,000. This health package also covers their spouse and four children below the age of 25.
The maternity package has a limit of Sh150,000 while their dental package stands at Sh75,000 together with an optical package with a Sh75,000 limit.
The MPs will also enjoy a non-pensionable retirement benefit that will be calculated at 31 percent of their annual basic pay at the end of their term.
A car loan of up to Sh7 million repayable at three percent per annum within five years as well as a mortgage facility of up to Sh20 million also repayable at the same rates is also available to the MPs.
Munyiva observed that there were many Kenyans whose wages border the poverty line, yet the first thing that the MPs were canvassing for, were their own salaries.
She argued that the MPs already knew what the terms of their service would be before they were elected and should therefore not start complaining about the packages.
"The rationalisation as stipulated in the Gazette Notice Volume CXV- No33 published on February 28 applies to all State officers and is not discriminatory as alleged," she pointed out.
She further criticised the MPs accusing them of being bent on living large at the detriment of fellow Kenyans and the development of the nation.
To further drive her argument home, Munyiva observed that the government would save Sh500 million per year, if the MPs pay perks remain as they are.
"In five years, these savings will amount to Sh30 billion. If it was to be allocated to primary school education, it would be enough to see 852,272 poor children through eight years of schooling," she argued.
Senior KNCHR officer Kamanda Mucheke added that it would be too costly for the country to send home the SRC commissioners because they would have to be paid off for the entire remainder of their terms.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has also registered his support for the SRC, saying MPs must respect the country's institutions.
He however urged the team to look at the salaries of the County Assembly Members noting that Sh79,200 per month was too low.
"I can live with the salary set by SRC as long as the Senate is facilitated to work. We have many ways of earning a living as leaders. It is not feasible or necessary to disband the SRC," he argued.
Institute for Social Accountability National Coordinator Wanjiru Gikonyo also added her voice to the debate saying the SRC should not budge because it would open a can of worms.
Gikonyo explained that should the SRC cave in to MPs' demands, then doctors and other public officers would start making similar demands.
"I think it's unfortunate that the new Parliament is coming in thinking about their stomachs. They can step down if they are not happy with their pay," she said.
But even as civil societies, Kenyans and even some MPs feel that the demands for a pay hike are unwarranted, Sadiki East Africa deputy president Dismas Mokua played the devil's advocate.
Mokua told Capital FM News that the MPs demands were justified because it would help them give Kenyans quality legislations. He also argued that MPs would be able to focus on their mandates as opposed to other side deals to make their ends meet.
Mokua proposed a net of Sh500,000 for MPs saying that CEOs of top companies in the country took home a similar amount.
"If we want to grow our country's democracy, we must give our MPs financial autonomy so that they are not manipulated by the Executive. We should bake a bigger cake so that everyone gets a share," he argued.