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MPs push for rent-free houses, bigger tea pots, better bar, five-star chefs

Monday November 19 2018

 National Assembly and Senate

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich reading the 2017/2018 budget at Parliament Buildings on March 30, 2017. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAVID MWERE
By DAVID MWERE
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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.

SH1.2 MILLION

Proposals for better terms for legislators — already among the best-paid in the world with a Sh1.2 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.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The parliamentary committee, chaired by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, tabled the report in the National Assembly last Thursday.

Among its proposals is that all the 416 members and Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament be given official residences or a “suitable house allowance” in line with the Employment Act.

SH20M MORTGAGE

Majority leaders and their deputies as well as majority and minority whips and their deputies in both Houses will also be accommodated under this facility to be administered by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

The proposed housing perks are on top of the Sh20 million mortgage facility that each MP gets and which is subject to an interest rate of three per cent per annum that must be fully paid by the end of the five-year parliamentary term.

EFFICIENT

Currently, mortgage to MPs is only anchored on regulations and not in law, as is required.

“To enable the members discharge their responsibilities effectively and for efficient functioning of Parliament, these services and facilities shall be provided in such a manner and in such rates as the commission may determine from time to time, taking into account the rate applicable for other state officers,” the report suggests.

MILLEAGE

The Bill seeks to anchor the PSC in law as Parliament is the only remaining arm of government, after the Executive and the Judiciary, that is yet to legislate on its own commission.

MPs also want government cars, just like their 47 county woman representative colleagues, and car loans on top of the mileage allowance paid to members of the National Assembly only, and the Sh7 million car grant that they all receive.

TRAVEL

Although Kenyan MPs are ranked among the best paid in the world, they have complained that they are not treated well compared to Cabinet Secretaries and judges.

Therefore, the report recommends that they get enhanced medical cover that would include their extended families, as well as improved allowances for domestic and international travel.

The allowance paid to those who travel outside the country is dictated by the foreign country visited.

MEDICAL SCHEME

A gazette notice by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, which contains salary schemes for government employees, limits insurance cover for State and public officials to one spouse and four children below 25 years. The children must be enrolled in local schools.

The lawmakers’ medical scheme provides for Sh10 million inpatient cover per family, Sh300,000 for outpatient cover, Sh150,000 for maternity and Sh75,000 for dental care.

RECRUITED

The report further recommends that a budget be set aside for each of the 290 constituencies to have a public participation and monitoring office, separate from the National Government-Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF) that they control.

The public participation offices in the constituencies, manned by staff recruited on contractual basis, are aimed at enhancing civic education on parliamentary affairs at the grass roots level, the committee says.

REGULATIONS

In the Senate, the committee is proposing a monitoring allowance for the 47 elected Senators. Senators have been pushing for a Sh2 billion annual budget to help them in their oversight functions on governors in the counties, but a lack of regulations to guide the implementation of the fund has denied them the billions.

On two occasions, their colleagues in the National Assembly have shot down regulation proposals meant to implement the fund.

PARTICIPATION

Among the projects they intend to run with the money are county expenditure reviews, research and survey studies on various thematic areas affecting counties, tracking and monitoring of development activities, and social auditing of development projects in the counties.

“Each House of Parliament shall prescribe in the standing orders the manner of undertaking public participation and the commission shall provide services and facilities necessary to actualise the objects of this section,” the report says.

STRUGGLING

The net effect of this new clause is that it will result in an extra charge on the Consolidated Fund at a time the government is struggling to raise revenue to finance its key development projects.

The clause also risks running into headwinds with the law as it was not subjected to public participation as required by the Constitution.

Nevertheless, the committee argues that the clause will ensure that the PSC achieves its functions to ensure efficient and effective functioning of Parliament.

WELFARE

Passage of the Bill would also give the PSC powers to outsource certain services and facilities “for the welfare of the members”.

 MPs have complained of being served bad food in their three-star cafeteria within Parliament and suggestions to have this service improved or outsourced have been openly canvassed on the floor of the House.

Already, the National Assembly committee on Services and Facilities, chaired by Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu, has tabled five benchmarking reports on how the welfare of the MPs can be improved to “enhance their performance”.

BETTER BAR

The committee has, in the course of preparing its report, visited the US, the UK, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and India. Among the improvements it is asking for are bigger tea pots, a better bar, five-star chefs, and new bidets in the toilets.

If these suggestions are implemented fully, service in the legislative arm of government will be one of the most attractive in the country.