9 July 2019

Kenya: Greed At Its Peak in MPs New Demands to Enrich Themselves

Photo: Capital FM
Kenyan civil society groups unleashed more than 10 pigs and poured jerrycans of blood smack outside Parliament, as a symbolic gesture of the contempt they have for Members of Parliament – labelled MPigs – for demanding higher pay in 2013.

Members of Parliament (MPs) want the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to reinstate and increase several allowances that the commission scrapped, in an audacious move that could raise their salaries from the current Sh1.1 million to between Sh2.1 million and Sh2.9 million a month.

In a memorandum to the SRC seen by the Nation, lawmakers are seeking to have their car grants doubled from the current Sh5 million to Sh10 million, increase their mortgage entitlements, extend their medical cover to more than one spouse and retain huge car maintenance and mileage allowances.

CAR GRANT

Should they not have their way in getting the car grant increased, they have threatened to use taxpayer money to buy top-of-the-range four-wheel-drive vehicles for all the 359 members.

There are currently 290 elected MPs, 47 woman representatives, 12 members nominated by political parties, and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

They argue that the current car grant of Sh5 million, which is taxable, is not sufficient to enable them to obtain vehicles that can withstand the rigours of the journeys they are required to make to and from the constituencies.

"The reason for the increment is that this sum is taxable and the government is in the process of banning importation of motor vehicles of more than three years of age," reads the memorandum, dated January 31, 2019.

The document, signed by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), urges SRC to agree and settle cases pertaining to MPs' perks out of court.

"A car grant should be a permanent feature in the terms and conditions of service for an MP. If SRC is not willing to accede to this request, PSC shall, pursuant to its mandate under Article 127 of the Constitution, purchase a motor vehicle for each MP and thereafter fuel and maintain the same through regular service," says Mr Muturi.

BURDEN

Should Parliament adopt this proposal, the vehicles bought for MPs by the PSC would be registered to the government, and hence the commission would hire drivers and transport managers for the vehicles, which Mr Muturi says is an unnecessary additional burden on taxpayers.

The MPs are also fighting for an increase in the plenary sitting allowance to Sh7,500 from the current Sh5,000 per session, saying it motivates MPs to attend plenary sessions and participate in debates. They also want SRC not to limit the number of sittings the allowance is payable for.

Mr Muturi argues that the plenary sitting allowance ensures a quorum, and that withdrawing it has affected parliamentary business.

"It is [an] unfair labour practice for SRC to purport to abolish the sitting allowance for plenary sessions as it did in a Gazette Notice dated July 7, 2017. This allowance has been in existence since pre-independence days," he says in the memorandum.

In addition, MPs also want the sitting allowance for committees increased from the current Sh5,000 to Sh7,500 per session for members, and that of chairpersons of committees from the current Sh8,000 to 15,000. The allowances are taxable.

SITTING ALLOWANCE

They also want the sitting allowance of vice-chairs of committees, which was abolished by SRC in 2017 through a gazette notice, reinstated. The vice-chair, MPs recommend, should be paid Sh12,000 per sitting.

"It is [an] unfair labour practice to reduce a person's remuneration, and on this basis it is recommended that the earlier rate for this allowances be reinstated," reads their memorandum.

The MPs argue that the allowance rates for committee sittings are too little yet the economy has grown in the past five years.

For their medical scheme, MPs want a cover for at least two spouses as opposed to one, which SRC gazetted in July 2017.

"It is unfair to reduce the number of spouses that a member can place on cover from two to one. This has led to [incidents]of marital strife," the MPs argue.

They also want SRC to include in the scheme a medical ex gratia assistance in instances where a member exhausts his or her entitlement but still requires medical assistance.

"It is the statutory duty of an employer under the Employment Act to provide medical treatment to its employees. The principle of medical ex gratia is well established in the public service. It would be unfair to extend this to other public officers and not to MPs," reads the memorandum.

On car maintenance and mileage allowance, the lawmakers are telling SRC that the two are not allowances but facilitations paid to enable them to maintain their vehicles to travel from Parliament to their constituencies. They want the commission not to interfere with these two payments by setting the limits for, for instance, car maintenance costs per MP.

DUTY ALLOWANCE

They also want SRC to stop limiting per diem payments for subsistence and accommodation, arguing that this is the domain of the PSC.

The legislators also want a special parliamentary duty allowance, capped at Sh150,000 per month for parliamentary office holders.

Mr Muturi argues that the special parliamentary duty allowance recognises parliamentary office holders who perform duties over and above those of an ordinary MP, and therefore need to be compensated for the extra work.

In a gazette notice published on July 7, 2017, SRC, among other things, abolished the car grant and reduced the number of payable sittings for plenary sessions and the sitting allowance for committee meetings to 16 per month. It also abolished reimbursable mileage allowance.

High Court Judge George Odunga later quashed the notice, stating it had procedural impropriety.

MPs, through lawyers TJ Kajwang' and Peter Kaluma, argued that SRC had no mandate to revise, to their disadvantage, the perks.

SRC appealed the decision, arguing that Justice Odunga erred in reviving the 2013 gazette notice on the salaries and remuneration of State officers.

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