Not again! MPs in night payrise trick

Thursday January 10 2013

If the President assents to the Bill masterminded by Finance minister Njeru Githae, each MP will get Sh9.3 million when their term expires on Tuesday. Photo/FILE

If the President assents to the Bill masterminded by Finance minister Njeru Githae, each MP will get Sh9.3 million when their term expires on Tuesday. Photo/FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NATION TEAM [email protected]

MPs concluded their term by raiding the Treasury and awarding themselves goodies that would cost Kenyans over Sh2.6 billion this month. Read (Parliament passes contentious retirement benefit bills)

They also passed a Bill that guarantees them life-long security with bodyguards, diplomatic passports and a funeral paid for by the government.

If the President assents to the Bill masterminded by Finance minister Njeru Githae, each MP will get Sh9.3 million when their term expires on Tuesday.

The proposed law also guarantees MPs and their spouses unlimited access to the executive lounge for Very Important Persons at all the airports within the country.

Besides, all the 42 Cabinet ministers and their 55 deputies will leave office with a driver paid for by the taxpayer.

The lawmakers, in the night deal, quietly amended the law to be paid gratuity at 31 per cent of their Sh200,000 basic monthly salary for every year in service, until August 26, 2010 when the Constitution was promulgated.

They then enhanced it to 31 per cent of their gross pay of Sh851,000 per month for every year worked.

This is the second time in two months MPs have awarded themselves hefty perks.

In October, President Kibaki rejected to assent to the Finance Bill that among other things gave MPs a generous gratuity, saying the increments were unaffordable and unconstitutional.

The MPs are currently entitled to a Sh3.72 million send-off package, but this too is contested in court, and a ruling is being awaited.

Mr Githae was the author and executioner of amendments to the Bill providing for the retirement benefits for the deputy president and the expanded list of designated officers.

Heads of the security forces — the Director-General of the National Intelligence Service, the Inspector-General of the National Police Service — plus the Secretary to the Cabinet and the Director of Public Prosecutions were added to the list of Designated State Officers.

The Bill initially only catered for the Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate, Deputy Speakers of the two Houses, the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, the Attorney-General plus the Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces.

The changes were introduced on a day the Order Paper, which sets out the order of the agenda of the House, was changed three times and 16 Bills passed.

The amendments are contained in two sheets of paper introduced at the last minute as the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers Bill) underwent the Third Reading on Wednesday night.

Written by hand

Curiously, the last page was written by hand, contrary to the practice in Parliament, and signed by the Finance minister.

With a handful of MPs in the House, the amendments were passed around to a few who attended the Third Reading chaired by Sotik MP Joyce Laboso.

When they were announced and approved to become part of the bill, they were not read out as is common when bills are at the Third Reading.

Mr Githae also did not explain what the lengthy paragraphs intended to accomplish. None of the MPs present asked what the amendments were about.

When they left Parliament at midnight, none of them had the papers either.

Journalists also had a hard time getting hold of the documents containing the amendments as it was not deposited in the room where all such material is recorded.

This despite the fact that such public documents are easily accessible and copies are usually made for everyone and distributed at Parliament’s media centre.

The amendments finally surfaced at about 12.30pm on Wednesday.

This is not the first time that the 10th Parliament has engaged in a practice known in American politics as pork barrel legislation, where legislators skillfully pass laws for their own benefit.

On August August 23, 2012, MPs watered down  and later passed the Leadership Integrity Act by dropping requirements on wealth declaration, vetting by State agencies and publication of their pending criminal court cases.

This means that to seek the vote on March 4, all they are required to do is present to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission a form declaring that they have never been involved in impropriety.

On October 4, Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto introduced amendments to the Elections Act to extend the time during which they could change parties from October 17 to January 4.

On December 27, Attorney-General Prof Githu Muigai introduced another change to the Elections Act to allow MPs stay on in the House and have more time to choose what parties they would use for the General Election.

On December 6, the Elections Act was again amended, this time to drop the requirement for MPs and members of the county assembly to have post-secondary education.

On Wednesday, a handful of MPs in the House approved amendments to the Constituency Development Fund Bill giving them greater control over the devolved funds than they have had over the past decade.

Meanwhile, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has asked President Kibaki to reject the Bills, saying they were unconstitutional.

“The Bills were drafted and brought to the floor of the House for discussion without reference to the commission whose mandate is to set and review the remuneration for all state officers” said Mrs Sarah Serem, the chairperson of the commission.

By Alphonce Shiundu, John Ngirachu, Caroline Wafuland Stella Cherono