Members of the National Assembly on Tuesday evening made a unanimous resolution to revoke the Legal Notice of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
The move opens a window for them to earn Sh851,000 in backdated monthly pay since March 28 this year when they were sworn in.
The MPs adopted a report of the Committee on Delegated Legislation which had recommended the revocation of the Legal Notice published in the Kenya Gazette on grounds that the salaries commission violated the law. That legal notice had set the monthly pay for the lawmakers at Sh532,500.
Deputy Leader of Minority Party Jakoyo Midiwo told Parliament’s administrators to ensure that from Tuesday night, after the revocation of the Legal Notice, they process the pay for the MPs calculating it at Sh851,000 according to the National Assembly and Remuneration Act.
His colleagues cheered, noting that for the past three months they have not been paid.
It was a packed House as the MPs made the resolution and also vowed to review the membership of the other constitutional commissions, saying the “mistakes” of the Tenth Parliament, where competence was sacrificed at the altar of regional and gender balance, had to be corrected.
The MPs mentioned the chairperson of the salaries commission Sarah Serem by name and accused her of coming up with the pay structure for State officers in an arbitrary manner.
They said if the move to cut their pay from Sh851,000 to Sh532,500 was because of the ballooning wage bill, then they will go a step further and “merge or kill the constitutional commissions”.
“If we reduce the number of commissions, we will reduce the wage bill,” said Jimmy Angwenyi (Kitutu Chache North, TNA)
The chairperson of the Committee on Delegated Legislation William Cheptumo set the ball rolling when he explained to MPs eleven reasons in which she said were enough grounds to declare the Legal Notice as “unconstitutional”.
His delivery was punctuated with cheers and foot-thumping, with occasional requests for him to repeat some statements for it “to sink”.
"In effecting any regulation of whatever name or of whatever nature, you should as a matter of procedure or a matter of law be able to table it in Parliament so that the House is able to approve having satisfied itself on the contents of the regulation” said Mr Cheptumo.
Mr Cheptumo also said the SRC had ignored the views of the Parliamentary Service Commission when they fail to accommodate proposals from the then Speaker Kenneth Marende, who was the chair of the commission in the previous Parliament.
He said the PSC had objected to a job evaluation because the roles of Parliament were explicit in the chapter on the Legislature in the Constitution.
They were given information, they just ignored. Otherwise, we’d not be having elected leaders of this country going for three months without a salary,” said Mr Cheptumo.
The lawmakers also took issue with the civil society, whom they said, were trying to dictate to Parliament how to execute its constitutional mandate.
“This Parliament has a duty to work within the constitution to rescue this country from the civil society,” said Mithika Linturi (Igembe South, TNA).
He said the push by the Executive for the public to reject a higher pay for the lawmakers was perhaps a “conspiracy to intimidate and emasculate Parliament” and have MPs serve at the mercy of the Executive.
“When people are poor, when they have nothing, the probability of compromise is very high,” siad Mr Linturi, whose petition formed the basis of the committee’s resolution.
According to the MPs, they are number five in the pecking order after the President, the Deputy President, the Speakers of the two Houses, and the deputy Speakers. They said the SRC had “demeaned” their standing by placing them under Cabinet secretaries and the Chief Justice and his deputy, because it is Parliament which vetted these officers before they got their formal appointment.
The MPs said there was nowhere in the world where a supervisor earned less that the person being supervised.
“This is a commission seated somewhere like an untrained butcher directing a knife without care of what it cuts,” said Peter Kaluma (Homabay Town, ODM)
The bile for the lawmakers was saved for the chairman of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae, whom they described as “a nobody doing nothing earning more than the President of this country”.
Mr Nyachae has been at the forefront of telling the lawmakers that they ought to watch their step in their push for more money because the Constitution was clear that they cannot benefit from legislative action that grants them pecuniary benefits.
“Mr Nyachae holds this Parliament in contempt, yet the law requires him to report to a committee of Parliament,” said John Mbadi (Suba, ODM).
Mr Mbadi revealed that the SRC had made a superfluous expenditure when it contracted an international audit firm –PricewaterhouseCoopers—to evaluate the job of an MP, services for which it paid Sh30 million, whereas the Constitution already has the lawmakers’ job description.
Mary Emasse (Teso South, URP) said Parliament ought to spruce up its image by employing a competent public relations team. Others who spoke were Ali Wario of Bura and Chris Wamalwa of Kiminini.
Mr Wario said: “I served in the Ninth Parliament. I know what my pay was. The job description for the Member of Parliament has not changed. Yet, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has reduced my pay without my consent. Ms Serem has violated the law, right and left; north and south and centre.”
He said all commissions will have to be investigated and tested for competence.