MPs and senators put their differences aside Thursday as they vowed not to let go of their Sh250,000 monthly housing allowance, which the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has termed unconstitutional.
This came as a majority of the 416 members of the two parliaments led by Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate) met for two hours at a joint informal sitting at Parliament buildings in Nairobi.
Although there was no media briefing, a section of MPs who attended the meeting said it was unanimously resolved that they should not reimburse the monies paid to them as demanded and instead fight back.
“We adopted a resolution that no member will be victimised in light of the two court cases challenging the allowance,” an MP, who did not wish to be quoted, said.
The meeting also resolved that the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) hires lawyers to represent them even as the MPs wondered why chief administrative secretaries and Cabinet Secretary at large Raphael Tuju was entitled to a house allowance yet he has no docket.
"We have been sued individually and the decision of how the legal cost will be met came up. Of course there was the suggestion of us pooling legal fees but it was shot down, meaning that the PSC will hire one lawyer to represent us in a consolidated case," the MP said.
PSC, chaired by Mr Muturi and which takes care of the welfare of MPs and parliamentary staff, recommended that each of the 416 members be paid Sh250,000 as monthly house allowance. The amount, subject to tax, was backdated to October 5, 2018, the day High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ruled that all State officers are entitled to a house or an allowance following a petition by deputy county governors.
The ruling set a precedent for PSC to pay MPs, also categorised as state officers alongside the president, his deputy, cabinet secretaries, judges and members of constitutional commissions as well as independent offices.
SRC, chaired by Lyn Mengich, and activist Okiya Omutata have separately challenged in court the constitutionality of the PSC move.
Interestingly, SRC did not appeal the ruling by Justice Mwita and instead secretly wrote to governors requesting them to facilitate their deputies with a house or a house allowance.
Among the issues raised at Thursday’s meeting include why SRC commissioners take home Sh1 million in basic pay and Sh320,000 in house allowance. The MPs claimed that SRC and other commissioners have multiple vehicles at their disposal and earn Sh50,000 sitting allowance for each meeting they attend.
“Why is it that everyone serving in the executive including chiefs have vehicles while magistrates are left to be hit by vehicles while crossing roads to catch matatus with friends and relatives of those they have jailed?” an MP posed.
The MPs claimed that CSs, PSs and parastatal heads earn more than their employers and supervisors elected by the people, have at least three vehicles assigned to each in addition to responsibility and entertainment allowances.
MPs also questioned SRC’s failure to rationalise and harmonise pay in the public service and why teachers, nurses, police officers and soldiers earn far less than public servants.
“Why is it that only elected civil servants should not be housed by their employer and be provided with a means of transportation? Some of these commissions have been captured by the executive to subdue and manipulate the Judiciary and Parliament and must be called out,” another MP said.
Ms Mengich has previously said that SRC is the only state body constitutionally mandated to review salaries and allowances of state and public officers as contained in the July 7, 2017 gazette notice.
She argues that MPs, like other state and public officers, enjoy a housing allowance which is part of their gross pay.