Party is over for MPs as pay cuts loom

Sunday July 16 2017

Salaries and Remuneration Commission Chairperson Sarah Serem

Salaries and Remuneration Commission Chairperson Sarah Serem speaks during a press briefing at the agency's offices in Nairobi on July 10, 2017. SRC has said an MP who takes up the maximum Sh20 million mortgage would have to repay Sh359,373 a month. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Massive financial adjustments await members of Parliament and senators who will begin sittings next month following the pay structure released by the salaries team last week.

The lawmakers normally rake in millions of shillings from sitting allowances and fictitious mileage claims, which the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), chaired by Ms Sarah Serem, scrapped.

The number of committee sittings have also been capped, further straining the amount of money MPs will make in the 12th Parliament.

Contacted by the Nation, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), said: “I have no comment. I can only comment after I have sat with the commission.”

There were indications from within SRC that they would be uncomfortable with the provision to scrap sitting allowances for the plenary, given that they are paid to lawmakers elsewhere.

From the Sh8.8 billion the SRC said will be saved from the new pay structures, MPs are the biggest contributors.

An MP who takes up the maximum Sh20 million mortgage would have to repay Sh359,373 a month while taking the full Sh7 million car loan would have one part with Sh125,780 monthly.

MPs use the standing monthly salary to pay the car loan and mortgage and have committee sitting allowances and mileage reimbursements as their real income.

Having to give up Sh485,153 if one takes a full mortgage and car loan would leave a serious dent in an MP’s pocket.

The new salaries are not subject to review by any other institution as the SRC has a constitutional mandate to set and review the remuneration and benefits of all State officers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has already backed the SRC’s decision, saying: “The days of wasteful allowances and peculiar but inexplicable payments are behind us. Better and more prosperous days lie ahead.”

The majority of lawmakers have remained tight-lipped over the SRC decision, perhaps for fear of a backlash from the public, who have also been complaining of the huge salaries for the legislators.

Their transport allowances will now be paid once a month based on fixed rates for the distances covered, which have been classified into five groups.

They range between Sh266,663 for a return trip of 750 kilometres and Sh738,833 for more than 1,500km.

In 2015, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) said in a report that MPs across the political divide were making fake mileage claims.

To further plunder the taxpayers, some MPs and parliamentary staff miss crucial meetings but use their colleagues to sign in for them and later claim allowances.

The damning report exposed how some MPs falsify mileage claims to rake in up to Sh2 million from the PSC as there have been no clear checks and balances.

The changes by SRC, which will be effected after the General Election, also affect appointed State officers such as Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, the Attorney-General, Chief of the Defence Forces, military service commanders and heads of Kenya Police Service.

Speakers of both Houses, majority and minority leaders, members of the Speaker’s panel, chief whips and minority whips will no longer be paid a special allowance of Sh150,000.