Capital FM (Nairobi)

11 July 2014

Kenya: Serem Threatens to Chop MCA Allowances

Nairobi — The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has threatened to abolish allowances for Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) over their abuse.

Serem has admonished the MCAs for unnecessary foreign trips and for taking advantage of their sitting allowances; hard earned taxes, she said, that should be used for the intended purpose of service delivery.

"Foreign trips in themselves are not bad but if the trips are more about joy riding than tangible benefits for those who elected you into office, then it is abuse," she said.

She explained that the SRC was at the tail-end of a survey to establish the extent of the abuse and based on the findings will take action that could include abolishing sitting, travel and out-of-station (facilitative) allowances all together.

"Although we have received quite a lot of information from the Auditor General (and) from the Controller of Budget, we as SRC are moving in to establish further misuse and abuse of the same. And if need be, considering the level of abuse, we will not shy from abolishing such allowances that lend themselves to misuse of public funds," she threatened.

She said the Commission would complete its survey by the end of July and would at the beginning of August unveil a policy to guide the payment of allowances to all public servants.

In response, the Chairman of the County Assembly Speakers Forum Abdi Nuh accused Serem and her team of overstepping their mandate by attempting to dictate when and how foreign trips are undertaken by the MCAs.

"It's only being big mouths to say they are going to take on some roles when they have not even executed the roles they already have which is setting salaries. They haven't even done for the entire public service which they ought to advice. So I mean, let the SRC perform the mandates which they have been given first before they start asking for new ones. It's baseless," he said.

Nuh however appeared to contradict his claim that the alarm over excessive foreign trips taken by MCAs is, "baseless," when he called for regulations to be put in place to govern them.

"We all concur that foreign travels have to be regulated in their own way. When county assemblies are traveling they should be traveling on the basis of committees of County Assemblies. We take cognisance of the fact that we should be more prudent but that does not entail curtailing the benchmarking trips that ought to be done," he said.

Serem however cautioned the MCAs against undermining the Commission on matters remuneration, "If anybody handles issues of remuneration without referring it to SRC, it's null and void. It does not matter which office will be responsible for it but that will be illegal. There may be pronouncements that are made outside, but when it comes to implementation it will have to pass through SRC and if SRC has not approved as far as remuneration and benefits are concerned, that statement will be null and void," she reiterated.

An example of which, Commissioner and former Alego Member of Parliament Oloo Aringo said, was President Uhuru Kenyatta's pronouncement that if MPs got car grants so should MCAs.

"A good example is the MCAs prevailing on his Excellency the President over the car grants and off course SRC said no," he said.

READ MCAs entitled to car grants like MPs - Uhuru

Aside from the foreign trips taken by MCAs, the commission expressed disapproval at reports that some MCAs were hiring up to 10 support staff each and dipping into public coffers to pay them.

"We will have no problem whatsoever if that money is extended from your own pocket. But if it's coming out of the public funds, and which seems to be the case, then that is our interest. The County Public Service Boards will be held accountable for it. There are the county clerks, if they are responsible for paying any of those, they will be responsible for meeting and paying anything that has been abused," she said.

The allowances that Serem and her team are now threatening to abolish were reviewed upward less than a year ago following a go slow by the MCAs.

READ MCAs get mortgages, car loans in salary deal

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