National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has reminded MPs that they will not benefit from a bill to enhance their perks according to a proposal by the committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, even if they pass it.
This came as members of the National Assembly accused the media of blowing the matter out of proportion as they opened their intermittent sibling rivalry with the Senate over the passage of the Parliamentary Service Bill 2018.
The Justice and Legal Affairs committee, chaired by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo, has proposed a new clause in the bill, which would make it mandatory that all the 416 MPs in the National Assembly and Senate get a house allowance, a vehicle fuelled and maintained by the taxpayer and a car loan.
The committee also wants an enhanced medical cover for MPs and that a budget be set aside for each of the 290 constituencies for monitoring and evaluation of national government projects, as well as public participation in parliamentary affairs.
The lawmakers’ medical scheme provides Sh10 million inpatient cover per family, Sh300,000 for outpatient cover, Sh150,000 for maternity and Sh75,000 for dental care. They also have a Sh7 million car grant and a Sh20 million mortgage facility.
The MPs accused the media of distorting the facts about the bill as they aimed invectives at their colleagues in the Senate for speaking ill of the bill and demanding that they, too, should scrutinise it.
They were adamant that the bill is not about raising their salaries and perks, as that is the constitutional mandate of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
However, Speaker Muturi reminded them that they would not benefit from it, even if the bill was passed and signed into law, in line with article 116 (3) of the Constitution.
“You cannot benefit from this as it will be against the Constitution,” Mr Muturi said.
The article provides that an Act of Parliament that confers a direct pecuniary interest on MPs shall not come into force until after the next General Election.
Mr Muturi did not spare the media from accusations of bad publicity, after Suna East MP Junet Mohamed sought his intervention, saying that coverage of the bill had been blown out of proportion.
Mr Mohamed, Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Minority Leader John Mbadi (Suba South) were apprehensive that continued “misinformation” on the bill was maligning the names of individual MPs and the House.
“When those with the high calling of informing the public (media) choose to entertain instead, it becomes tricky. When the House tries to make the bill in sync with the Constitution, it becomes a crime. I have seen opinion pieces that belong to the gutter — they clearly show that this is someone who has not seen the bill,” the Speaker said.
Mr Junet, Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Minority Leader John Mbadi (Suba South) were apprehensive that continued "misinformation" on the bill is maligning the names of individual MPs and the Hous
“This House has nothing to do with salaries of MPs. It’s about actualising the Parliamentary Service Commission, just like the Public Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission,” Mr Junet said.
He said it was unfair to target MPs as the salaries of Cabinet secretaries, judges, principal secretaries and parastatal heads, among others, have never been questioned.
“When it comes to MPs, it becomes juicy. It is painful! There are members in this government who do very little but they earn more than MPs. I want to tell the nation that we are not passing this bill to increase our salaries,” he said.
Mr Duale said the mandate of setting salaries of state and public officers rests with the SRC, and not Parliament.
“It is very sad that this House cannot legislate article 127 that creates the Parliamentary Service Commission. It is no secret that I don’t access the forum of senators but they should not demand to consider this bill,” Mr Duale said, adding; “if you ask me, this bill ought not to go to the Senate.”
He said that laws on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Public Service Commission (PSC), which are constitutional commissions like the parliamentary commission, did not go to the Senate for perusal.
Mr Duale also claimed there were officers in the Executive who are entitled to mortgage and who, at the end of the month, still get house allowances.
“Parliament must be critiqued but that must be done with facts and evidence,” he said.
Mr Mbadi urged his colleagues not to be worried about negative publicity, saying that MPs the world over have never been liked by the electorate.
“Let’s tabulate the salaries of all state officers in Kenya and make them public. When you scandalise, you dehumanise Parliament. When you ask for facilities, you become a house of greed. Kenyans should be fair to MPs,” Mr Mbadi said.
According to Mr Cheptumo; “If this House was selfish, as they are saying, we would have passed this bill a long time ago!”