The job of an MP would soon be one of the most attractive in the country, if they get their way in their agitation for bigger salaries and allowances, among other benefits.
This comes even as it emerges that MPs like Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) are yet to make their maiden speeches on the floor of the debating chambers. So is the push for enhanced perks a good value for taxpayers’ money? The jury is out.
But even as they push for better pay, it’s not bereft of opposition from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), which is in charge of setting and reviewing the salaries and allowances of State and public officers. In the pursuit for opulence, the MPs have been stopped in their tracks by a determined SRC.
They have in turn hit back at the Lyn Mengich-led commission, slashing its budgetary allocation even as they plot to amend the law to have the commissioners serve part-time, essentially reducing their earnings.
On July 7, 2017, SRC, in a gazette notice, reduced the basic pay for MPs from Sh710,000 to Sh621,000 per month and removed the annual progression rate for the legislators.
The commission also reduced the basic salaries of Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate from Sh1.3 million to Sh1.2 million, and deputy Speakers from Sh1.05 million to Sh924,000.
At the end of every month, an MP takes home about Sh1.2 million, including the allowances computed and paid together with the basic salary.
Committee chairpersons are paid Sh15,000, vice-chairpersons Sh12,000 and ordinary members Sh7,000 whenever they attend committee sittings. They are also entitled to a Sh5,000 plenary sitting allowance, foreign and domestic allowance, and mileage allowance whenever they travel to their constituencies.
MPs also get a Sh7 million car grant, business class travel, car maintenance, a Sh20 million mortgage, untaxed pension, a gratuity at almost a third of annual pay for every year served, and medical cover of more than Sh10 million per year, restricted to one spouse and four children.
The mortgage facility is optional and is charged at an interest rate of three per cent per annum that must be fully paid by the end of the five-year parliamentary term.
The SRC salary scheme for government employees limits insurance cover for State and public officials to one spouse and four children below 25 years, who must be in school.
The lawmakers’ medical scheme provides a Sh10 million inpatient cover per family, Sh300,000 for outpatient cover, Sh150,000 for maternity and Sh75,000 for dental care.
The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) is in the process of implementing the recommendations of the House Committee on Services and Facilities.
In its benchmarking reports in the United States, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, France, New Zealand and India, among others, the committee, chaired by Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Ombaki, wants MPs’ facilities enhanced to deliver on their mandate comfortably.
The reports currently before the Parliamentary Service Commission wants bigger tea pots, a ritzy bar, five-star chefs and new bridles in toilets for MPs.
MPs have complained about being served bad food in their three-star cafeteria within Parliament and suggestions to have this service improved or outsourced have been openly discussed in the House.
The 2018 Parliamentary Service Bill passed by the House further wants lawmakers given their full per diems so that they can seek their own accommodation when they travel within or outside the country.
Currently, Parliament books accommodation for MPs when they travel outside Nairobi, and a change of policy would mean that the MPs decide where and how they spend their per diems.
“To enable the members [to] discharge their responsibilities effectively and for efficient functioning of Parliament, these services and facilities shall be provided in such a manner and [at] such rates as the commission may determine from time to time, taking into account the rate applicable for other state officers,” says the report on the PSC bill generated by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.