Sunday Reading: Kenya MPs Must Stop Setting Their Own Pay

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By Blamuel Njururi, Kenya Confidential Editor-in-Chief – Nairobi, November 25, 2016

Kenya legislators have made it their mandate to set their own pay and wield threats over the SRC since they have a say in its composition and funding. A few months ago the leader of majority Jubilee Party in Parliament Aden Duale without any iota modesty threatened that Parliamentary vetting committee would block the appointment of former SRC chairperson Sarah Cheseram as Kenya’s envoy to China

The 2010 Kenya Constitution almost doubled the number of parliamentarians in Kenya from a house of 222 members to one with two chambers and 418 members in total. The National Assembly has 350 members while the rest are in the Senate. The total includes two speakers.

A new body, established by the same Constitution, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), is mandated to adjudicate public pay in the entire government set up. It is made up of 13 commissioners and a management team. In 2013 when SRC set MPs monthly pay at Ksh532,500, including allowances.

The MPs swiftly rejected the terms, which they termed a pay cut and against the law. They went to Court and walked out with an award – courtesy of an equally insensitive Judiciary that tends to think government revenue falls down as deciduous tree leaves or Manna from Heaven.

Kenya legislators have made it their mandate to set their own pay and wield threats over the SRC since they have a say in its composition and funding. A few months ago the leader of majority Jubilee Party in Parliament Aden Duale without any iota modesty threatened that Parliamentary vetting committee would block the appointment of former SRC chairperson Sarah Cheseram as Kenya’s envoy to China.

Sarah Jepkemboi Chumo Serem is a member of the Institute of Human Resource Management of Kenya and has nearly 30 years of experience in human resource management practice and other undertakings. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in Sociology and Political Science and a masters of business administration from the University of Nairobi. Few members of Parliament and certainly Duale cannot match her public duty profile or academic credentials.

In 2011 after the establishment of Salary and Remuneration Commission – an independent Commission established by The Constitution of Kenya 2010 under Article 230 – she became its Chairperson on a contact for six years. SRC has two mandates: to set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all state officers; and advise the National and County Governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers.

In a battle pitting public opinion against the legislators and which saw colourful protests in June 2013, the legislators finally backed down. But this was only after they wrung major concessions from the commission, including unlimited committee meetings, for which they are paid a minimum of KSh5,000 (about US$50) per sitting in a country where majority of the population live on less than a dollar per day. The increased benefits had the effect of distorting the commission’s initial rules that allowance would not exceed 40% of an MP’s pay.

In March 2013, the commission set pay for the speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate at KSh990,000 (US$9,500) per month, increasing annually to a maximum of KSh1,320,000 (US$12,700) monthly. Their deputies would earn KSh792,000 (US$7,630) rising to KSh1,056,000 (US$10,760) from 1 April, 2013. April 1 is usually the Fool’s Day internationally and more so in Kenya’s Man-eat-Man society.

The majority and minority leaders, committee chairpersons, members of the Speaker’s panel, whips and regular MPs had their monthly pay starting at KSh532,000 (US$5,320), growing to KSh710,000 (US$6,800) after five years. The pay of the majority and minority leaders was later raised to KSh792,000 (US$7,630) and KSh765,502 (US$6,790) respectively, with a ceiling of KSh1,056,000 (US$10,760) and KSh1,020,760 (US$9,830).

The president, his deputy and cabinet secretaries are not members of parliament but for context, the president’s pay started at KSh1,237,500 (US$11,920) to increase to KSh1,650,000 (US$15,900) from April.

But the golden goose for lawmakers appears to be their perks. A raft of benefits and allowances include an official car grant of Ksh 5 million (US$48,000) per 5-year term, a personal car loan from the government of up to Ksh7 million (US$67,400) and repayable at paltry 3% interest, mileage (or business class travel by air or rail in lieu) and car maintenance of Ksh356,525 (US$3,440) monthly.

In addition, the legislators are eligible for a state-backed mortgage of up to KSh20 million (US$193,000) repayable at an interest rate of 3%, and a tax-free pension. They also receive a generous medical allowance for themselves, their spouse and up to four children below 25 years. A few years ago, they sought to be granted State Funeral along with their spouses even after being voted out of Parliament when they enjoy pension for serving one term.

Other allowances include airtime, group life and personal accident cover, travel and notably, allowances for attending parliament and sitting in committees. Many make technical appearances only to qualify for the allowances – even when they travel out of Nairobi for committee meetings.

The legislators also get 31% of their basic pay for every year served as severance pay at the end of their 5-year term. The legislators higher pay demands have created a spiral demands for higher salaries by all other public servants.

The 2017 terms took effect from 9 August 2017 a day after 8 August General Election to the end of the term in 2022. That deal no longer holds with new demands and arm-twisting the salaries commission, over which MPs have financial and operational oversight, into approving higher pay.

In the latest move all 416 Members of Parliament, Speakers of both Houses and majority leaders in both chambers will each be provided with a rent-free house, a government vehicle, an expanded medical cover, travel allowances and an expanded constituency outreach operation, if a new Bill becomes law.

Proposals for better terms for legislators — already among the best-paid in the world with a Ksh1.2 million salary — are contained in the Parliamentary Service Bill that is set for debate in the National Assembly tomorrow afternoon. The Bill is partly based on the recommendations of the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

The Kenyan Parliament has often been a haven for corruption and extortion that involves public officers being vetted and those appearing before its various committees for interrogation over misappropriation of public funds. Never in the history of the country has corruption been so blatant and so shamelessly covered up. To a large measure Parliament is more of a Corruption supermarket of insatiable greed for money than a Honourable House.

In addition, Kenyan lawmakers are responsible for the law that governs their pay. However no law is superior to the Constitution that provides for citizens participation on decisions that affect national values and principles of governance, which include, democracy and participation of the people; inclusiveness; good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.

The Kenya Confidential Editor-in-Chief intends to go to Court and challenge legal adherence public participation in Kenya should MPs push through the latest law to increase their perks including rent-free houses.

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides for the following;

That:

Article 1(2): All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. The people may exercise their sovereignty directly or through their elected representatives.

It is therefore, utra viles (invalid excess of authority or power exercised by an entity) the Constitution for a few people comprising elected representatives to connive to increase their salaries and perks without involving the public – the taxpayers and therefore their employer.

The grounds for this legal action are;

The Constitution provides:

1. That:

Article 10 (2) a, b and c: The national values and principles of governance include; democracy and participation of the people; inclusiveness; good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.

2. That:

Article 118: (1) Parliament shall— (a) conduct its business in an open manner, and its sittings and those of its committees shall be open to the public; and (b) facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of Parliament and its committees.

3. That:

Article 201 (a): there shall be openness and accountability, including public participation in financial matters.

4. That:

Members of Parliament and specifically the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs did not conduct Public Participation on the proposed rent-free house, a government vehicle, an expanded medical cover, travel allowances and an expanded constituency outreach operation.

5. That:

The Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Committee did not conduct Public Participation on the issues in the Bill.

6. That:

The Powers and Privileges Committee did not conduct Public Participation

7. That:

The Parliamentary Financial Audit and Money Related Committees did not conduct Public Participation financial implications.

8. That:

The Public Accounts Committee did not conduct Public Participation cost implications on the extra charge on the Consolidated Fund at a time the government is struggling to raise revenue to finance its key development projects.

9. That:

The Budget and Appropriations Committee did not conduct Public Participation on the expanded budgetary implications against development funding deficit.

10. That:

The Select Committee on Members Service & Facilities Committee did not conduct Public Participation on bigger tea pots, a better bar, five-star chefs, and new bidets in the toilets.

11.  That:

The Parliamentary Service Commission did not conduct Public Participation.

12.  That:

This Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Republic and binds all persons and all State organs at both levels of government. Parliament is a State Organ at the National level.

A body that makes laws in a country must subject itself and obey the same rules since laws are blind of the status of all citizens offending them – especially the supreme law of the land – the Constitution. Unfortunately Kenya Parliament intoxicates politicians to a sense of great misplaced self-importance, entitlement to as much public funds as they can cart home and extreme appetite for insatiable self-aggrandizement. That MUST STOP.

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