New pay hike for MPs

Thursday January 7 2010

 

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

The salaries of Members of Parliament are to be increased from Sh851,000 a month to Sh896,000 a month, a tribunal appointed by the House has recommended.

In addition, MPs’ pay will be increased by five per cent every year to cushion them against a rise in the cost of living and their allowances for sitting in parliament have been doubled.

And Prime Minister Raila Odinga is to earn Sh1.67 million every month, some Sh350,000 more than Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka the tribunal says, settling a vexing quarrel over who is President Kibaki’s second-in-command.

But MPs will pay more tax, after their taxed basic salary was increased from Sh200,000 to Sh350,000. The bulk of their income made up of allowances will however not be taxed and, according to the tribunal, cannot be taxed until the law is changed.

The tribunal, chaired by retired Appellate Judge Akilano Akiwumi, agonised over awarding a pay rise for MPs in the face of public hostility and an economy in recession. Indeed, the tribunal gives eloquent reasons why a salary increase at this time is not wise.

The increase has been achieved by removing one of the MPs’ three car allowances, adding part of it to the basic pay and spreading the rest to other allowances.

All other allowances have been increased, some such as sitting allowance, more than twice.

The tribunal appears to have been of a divided mind, on the one hand it dwells at length on the reasons for not giving a salary increase, but at the same time felt MPs do an important job and should be paid well.

Its report, as a result, is complicated and it will take many days for its full import to be understood.

But when everything is boiled down, MPs have been given a pay rise even though it will not appear in their payslips. This will come from the allowance members are paid to attend Parliament and its committees.

According to the tribunal’s estimates, a hardworking MP who attends all sessions and some committee meetings will make Sh375,000, over and above his salary of Sh896,000, theoretically bringing the total pay for such an MP to Sh1,271,000 a month.

The tribunal concludes that the increase of the car allowance in 2005 from Sh336,000 to Sh366,000 a month was illegal because the law was not followed in awarding it.

At the time, MPs threatened the Clerk of the National Assembly that unless he obtained permission from Treasury for the increase, they would not vote for the Supplementary Budget then before the House. Treasury officials tricked MPs into believing that the increment had been approved while in actual fact it had not.

The tribunal concludes that there are “too many allowances paid for the maintenance of just one car” but does not take any of them away. Instead, it makes proposals which will allow MPs a little more tax and still be left a little better off.

The tribunal’s report was handed over to Speaker Kenneth Marende on November 15 last year but has not yet been made public.

The Daily Nation has seen a copy of the report, with a covering letter from Judge Akiwumi to Mr Marende. It is possible that the contents of the report seen by the Daily Nation could be edited or changed before it is made public.

The tribunal had been asked by Mr Marende to resolve the impasse over who, between Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka, was senior.

It proposes that Mr Odinga be paid 80 per cent of the President’s salary while Mr Musyoka’s salary be the same as that of the Speaker but lower than the PM’s.

Under the Akiwumi team’s proposals, MPs will still take home a salary of Sh896,000 a month, Sh46,000 more than their present entitlement.

And they will have their sitting allowance when attending committees doubled to Sh10,000 per sitting up from the present Sh5,000 per sitting.

But on any given day, an MP will only take home a maximum of Sh15,000 from committee sittings.

The amount paid to an MP attending parliamentary sittings will be retained at the current rate of Sh5,000 payable even to those who only make a technical appearance to comply with the requirement.

Female MPs will qualify for compensation for losing sitting allowance when on maternity leave.

A training programme will be organised for MPs on investment to end the present situation where some of them over-commit their salaries on loans, causing them financial embarrassment, the tribunal recommends.

The committee visited South Africa and Uganda to study MPs’ remuneration before preparing their report.

Civil service boss Francis Muthaura had opposed any pay increase for MPs citing, bad economic times and disparities in salary scales in the public sector.

He had argued that any increase would distort remuneration in the public sector.

The tribunal recommended that a new site be found for construction of new precincts of the National Assembly to accommodate a new chamber, offices, parking space, dining hall, restrooms, reading rooms be found.

It recommended that the Parliamentary Service commission’s strategic plan 2008 to 2018 be updated to include plans for the creation of a hospital, restrooms, nursing cubicles, and baby sitting centres, establishment of a guest centre for MPs’ guests and electronic voting machine in the Chamber.

Newly-elected MPs will be taken through six months of induction through workshops, courses and orientation to train them on community and resource mobilisation, setting up of programmes, efficiency, public relations, addressing the news media, presentation and leadership among others.