Inside Politics

MPs split over refund of Sh4m housing levy funds

Friday, February 2nd, 2024 06:10 | By
National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichungwa addresses a past press briefing at Parliament Buildings. PHOTO/Print

Members of Parliament are split over whether they should be refunded January housing levy deduction amounting to Sh4.5 million.

While the Opposition wants the refund following a Court of Appeal decision declaring the tax unconstitutional, majority of MPs have dismissed the call, saying the matter has been appealed.

The division is expected to play out in Parliament when the two Houses resume sittings in a week’s time. This comes after the Minority wrote to the National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula demanding that deductions on MPs and Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) Staff salaries for January be refunded.

In the letter, Leader of Minority and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi explained that his decision is based on the fact that PSC proceeded to effect the 1.5 per cent deductions on MPs and PSC staff despite the Appeal court ruling rendered on January 26 that declined to extend the stay orders issued by the High Court that had allowed the deductions to continue on.

But Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah hit back, dismissing his counterpart’s, saying the matter was still life in Parliament and therefore still early to make demands.

“Political posturing as he knows he had enjoyed his pay long before the court’s decision. And in any case, an appeal is in progress in the Supreme Court filed by the National Assembly,” Ichung’wah said.

In his letter, Wandayi says “I am, therefore, writing to demand a commitment from PSC that it will refund, without any delay. The January 2024 Housing levy deductions for MPs and PSC staff. As it stands, such deductions are an illegality and fly in the face of the clear court ruling. It amounts to contempt of court.”

The move came even as MPs who did not want to be quoted said PSC was on average deducting between Sh10,000 and Sh20,000 depending on positions the members.

As per the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and benefits scheduled for State officers in the Senate and National Assembly, the two Speakers are entitled to a gross pay of Sh1.16 million and therefore were entitled to a combined deduction of Sh34,800, while Deputy Speakers who are entitled to a gross pay of Sh928,000 were deducted Sh13,920 each totaling to Sh27,840.

Gross pay

 Leaders of Majority and Minority parties are entitled to a gross pay of Sh768 000 and therefore the 1.5 per cent tax amounted to Sh46,080 for the four members as they were each deducted Sh 11,520.

The 346 Members in the National Assembly who are entitled to a gross pay of Sh710 000 were in total deducted Sh3,684,900 as each member paid Sh10,650 while the 64 senators excluding the Deputy Speaker and Leader of Majority and Mminority were deducted Sh681 600 in total as each paid Sh 10,650. The Bench, consisting of Justices David Majanja, Christine Meoli and Lawrence Mugambi had on Tuesday, November 28, ruled that the housing levy and some other sections of the Finance Act,2023, were unconstitutional, null and void.

Wandayi reminded Wetang’ula that Parliament is critical in protecting the rule of law. “Honourable Chairman, the institution of Parliament of Kenya plays a key role in the functioning of our nascent democracy and must, at all times, be at the forefront in protecting the rule of law and constitutionalism. I hope your good office will strive to protect its standing in society,” Wandayi added.

The new push by Opposition MPs follows that of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) which also demanded the immediate refund of the housing levy deducted from their pay slips.

Union Secretary General Akelo Misori said the government should take all necessary measures to protect teachers’ hard-earned pay, including their retirement benefits managed by the Public Service Superannuation Scheme.

He said the union will make every effort to protect the member’s salaries and benefits, even as they accused the Teachers Service Commission of blatant violation of court order.

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