MPs have hatched a plan to pocket Sh3.3 billion for the eight months their terms will be cut short, as the current Parliament will not sit for a full five years.
Should they succeed in their quest, their move is likely to embolden members of county assemblies (MCAs), who have already demanded Sh5.05 billion for serving a shorter term.
The life of the current Parliament will be shortened because of a Supreme Court ruling made in 2012, during the tenure of the Grand Coalition.
At the time, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga failed to agree on an election date and the court determined that the elections be held in March 2013.
The Constitution provides that the next General Election must be held in August 2017.
That means the life of the current government will be shorter by eight months.
Now, however, MPs have endorsed the plan that would allow them to earn salaries for the time they will not be in office.
“Given the date of the next General Election (August 8, 2017), it is now apparent that the term of the 11th Parliament will be less than five years. In this regard, the Parliamentary Service Commission ought to explore the possibility of a compensation mechanism in lieu of the shortened term,” the leadership of the House resolved on Saturday at the end of a retreat held in Mombasa.
The MPs want the payment to be factored in the June Budget.
Since the National Assembly has 349 members and the Senate has 62 and each earns about Sh1 million a month, this brings the total that they want to be paid to Sh3.3 billion.
Although they will not be working, the MPs have argued that they will be making a sacrifice and hence should be paid for the transition period.
Kenya has 2,526 MCAs with an average salary of Sh250,000 each. If MPs get their way, taxpayers will also have to pay MCAs Sh5.1 billion.
The MPs have argued that they would have remained in office for five years as is the tradition, meaning that their term would have ended in March 2018.
But as it is now, they will serve eight months less because the Supreme Court ruled that the election date is fixed in the Constitution.
All the MPs were aware of the ruling and the constitutional requirement when they offered themselves for election.
It will be difficult to justify the payment they are seeking, considering that a new Parliament will be elected in August 2017.
In Article 102, the Constitution states: “The term of each House of Parliament expires on the date of the next General Election.” This means that the term of Parliament is set in law, unlike in the past.
MPs are entitled to a lump sum payment of Sh1.5 million as a form of gratuity upon the expiry of their term.
They will also earn salaries for the two months preceding the election date.
MPs who have served at least two terms are paid a monthly pension by the Parliamentary Service Commission.
Those who serve one term are not entitled to the monthly stipend of Sh100,000.
Last week, Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo asked Speaker Justin Muturi, who chairs the Parliamentary Service Commission, to ensure that their interests are taken care of in view of the shortened term.
“We don’t want to be here at the mercy of Sarah Serem and we don’t want to be here at the mercy of anybody,” he said.
MPs earn Sh665,625 a month under the graduated rates set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission in 2013.
They are also paid sitting allowances for attending meetings in the chamber and committees and mileage allowances for travelling to their constituencies every weekend, which brings their earnings to about Sh1 million a month.
Besides the pay, the parliamentary leadership also resolved to form a select committee to review the Constitution. The team will have members from the Senate and the National Assembly.
Its key responsibility will be to build consensus, consolidate the proposals of the various amendment initiatives and provide a way of amending the supreme law.
Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang said with the provision in the Constitution for at least 90 days in either House between the first and the second reading of a Bill to amend the law, Parliament would need at least 220 calendar days to consider it.
Johnson Sakaja (TNA, nominated) said: “By the time we leave here, can we agree on a way to go about this? I’d say that we look at that socio-economic audit, we agree on how we can take over the process so that Parliament stops being a spectator.”