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Blow to MPs as Uhuru rejects bid to hike own perks

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 00:00 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/Courtesy

Members of Parliament suffered a major blow yesterday after President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected their bid to review domestic and foreign travel allowances.

Uhuru also rejected a move by lawmakers  to empower themselves the autonomy  to review and determine their salaries, allowances and other benefits without consulting the Executive.

In a memorandum explaining his refusal to assent to the Parliamentary Service Bill, Uhuru said the proposal did not take into account or make reference to the role of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

The bill provided that the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) shall regularly review domestic and international travel allowances applicable to its members and staff.

This would have provided the MPs an open cheque to review their travel allowances at will.

“The bill negates the role of SRC with respect to setting and regularly reviewing the remuneration and benefits of all State officers, and advising the national and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all public officers,” he noted.

Uhuru’s move is another setback to MPs’ insatiable appetite for allowances, coming after the High Court stopped them from paying themselves Sh250,000 each as house allowance.

House threshold

The President also rejected the clause seeking to have PSC determine the remuneration and allowances of its employees and also the review cycle of the remuneration and benefits of its employees.

According to the President, this would have made MPs completely independent of SRC and consequently make PSC an autonomous body when it comes to review of allowances, salaries and other benefits.

He said the clause did not take into account the advisory role of SRC as set out with respect to the determination or review of the remuneration of public officers.

The travel budget for MPs grew 88 per cent in the first nine months to March to Sh3.4 billion after the courts reinstated mileage allowance that SRC had withdrawn.

Speaker Justin Muturi, while delivering the message from the President, reminded MPs that it would take two thirds of the House to overturn the presidential memorandum.

“While it will take simple majority to support the presidential memo, it will require two thirds of the membership to reverse it,” he said.

PSC has been spending billions of shillings on local and foreign travels for MPs and parliamentary staff with the outgoing Controller of Budget (CoB) Agnes Odhiambo indicating the National Assembly travel spending grew to Sh1.8 billion in the nine months to March 2018.

Out of the travel budget, MPs spent Sh2.2 billion on domestic travel in the first nine months of 2018/19 compared to Sh1.1 billion in a similar period the previous year.

CoB data in June this year showed that MPs increased foreign trips in the nine months under review to spend Sh1.2 billion compared to Sh714 million previously.

The statistics indicated that parliamentary staff whose packages were also revised arbitrarily enjoyed huge expenditure on domestic and foreign trips.

Staff members spent a Sh1.04 billion on domestic travel last year and Sh699 million in 2017.

PSC has also been on the spot for having reverted to the old mileage reimbursement packages that handed each MP fixed maintenance car allowance of Sh356,525 a month, a move that has since been contested in court.

SRC had in July 2017 gazetted new remuneration structure for State officers that proposed a reduction in legislators’ basic salary and scrapping of five allowances including mileage claims.

Implementation of SRC’s salary review was halted by the High Court in December 2017, allowing Parliament to revert to paying MPs the higher salaries and perks as well as offering them the scrapped Sh5 million car grant.

MPs whose constituencies are more than 375km from Parliament also got back allowances initially scrapped by SRC.

The PSC move came just a day after then High Court judge George Odunga temporarily barred SRC from implementing the pay cut.

MPs have also been enjoying a package known as the “Domestic Subsistence Facilitation”, where each is entitled to up to Sh24,000 a night.

SRC, while protesting the housing allowance, told the court MPs, being State officers, lack the powers to decide their own remuneration.

The MPs kicked off a storm in May when they started pocketing the house allowance despite opposition from the Treasury and SRC.

SRC claims Parliament misinterpreted the housing benefit extended to the President, Deputy President, Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate, the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, governors and their deputies and speakers of county assemblies.

SRC argued that if MPs are allowed to continue untamed, it would result in the loss of public funds in excess of Sh99.5 million a month.

In retaliation, the National Assembly reduced Sh95 million from the Sh545.3 million allocated to SRC in the 2019/20 financial year. 

Also, MPs have a bodyguard seconded to Parliament by the NPSC while committee chairs have two.

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