Kenyans to Pay New MPs Sh3.7 Billion a Year If BBI Passes

26 February 2021

It will cost the taxpayer an extra Sh3.7 billion every year to cater for the proposed additional seats in Parliament in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill, analysts at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) say.

This is IEA's upward projection assuming that Kenyans do not elect women in the proposed 360 constituency seats, necessitating the nomination of 180 women to the National Assembly to meet the constitutional requirement of one gender not taking more than two-thirds of elective and appointed positions.

In this worst case scenario, the institute predicts, Kenyans will fork out Sh308 million to cater for the additional MPs every month, including the proposed 47 seats in the Senate, which will have a man and a woman from every county.

Read: We have a huge wage bill. Why did you increase number of MPs?

If Kenya has to nominate 180 women, the bicameral Parliament will have 640 members, up from 416, punching an extra Sh308 million hole in government coffers every month and Sh3.69 billion a year.

Two-thirds gender rule

This is in contrast to the best case scenario where if we elect as many women as are needed to achieve the two-thirds gender rule, taxpayers will still have to pay an extra Sh726 million a year - Sh60.5 a month - to cater for the additional MPs.

In order to address the gender rule debate, which triggered an advisory by Chief Justice David Maraga to dissolve the National Assembly and the Senate, the BBI Bill proposes that Kenyans nominate as many members of the under-represented gender as possible after the General Election.

The IEA, which has released a section of its analysis with the main report expected to be out in a webinar today, says for every additional MP the BBI proposes, it will cost taxpayers at least Sh1.37 a month.

Direct cash payments

This does not include the Sh20 million mortgage and Sh7 million car grant, both payable in five years, which MPs are entitled to, in addition to a Sh10 million annual medical insurance scheme.

"These estimates are of the direct cash payments received by every lawmaker per month as approved by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. We separate benefits like mortgage, car loan and medical insurance since these are not received per month," IEA chief executive Kwame Owino tweeted.

Apart from requiring that the nomination be made after the vote as opposed to 45 days before a General Election in the current setting, the BBI wants the special seats to meet the two-thirds gender rule be handed to women who contest in elections but lose.

BBI proponents say doing so would reward effort.

"The filling of special seats shall be determined after the declaration of elected members from every constituency, and comprise of candidates who stood for election with precedence given to those who received the greatest number of votes," the bill says, setting a 15-year sunset clause for the affirmative gender top-up seats.

The BBI Bill also proposes a precedent-setting nomination criterion that might see parties that do not win any seat in Parliament have nominated lawmakers.

"Article 90 of the Constitution is amended by deleting the words 'seats won by candidates of the political party at the General Election' and substituting therefore the expression 'votes received by a political party participating in a General Election'," the bill says.

The proposal means parties which come close second in contests may still be eligible for nomination even they do not win any seat in a General Election.

"The idea is to ensure every vote counts. Separately, votes to some parties may not make up seats, but together they are worthy of representation," BBI joint secretary Paul Mwangi said.

While the parties with many seats will still have the most nominations, advocates of this criterion cite cases of close contests.

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