alexa Parliament answers “lies” on MPs’ pay with ... lies - Daily Nation

Parliament answers “lies” on MPs’ pay with ... lies


Parliament answers “lies” on MPs’ pay with ... lies

Despite Kenyans’ desire for servant leadership, tax payers are footing bills for MPs at a premium rate

Parliament, through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), released a press statement on Tuesday, July 11, discrediting media reports that had portrayed lawmakers as a pampered lot.

In the 11-point rebuttal seeking to clarify information that was “inaccurate and misleading to the public”, the commission was particularly incensed by claims that they enjoy numerous allowances that bring their monthly salaries to over Sh1 million a month.
Parliament, in its “demystifying the facts” statement clarified that a legislator - excluding the two Speakers, who are ex-officio members and have higher salaries - earns Sh532,500 a month and receives only one allowance – a sitting allowance – when he or she attends a House or committee meeting, and not 17 as claimed.

However, Parliament just did the dishonourable thing of mystifying the facts with lies. According to calculations based on the rates provided in a 2013 Kenya Gazette notice number 2886 by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), a Member of Parliament is entitled to about Sh1.4 million a month, a figure that rises or falls slightly depending on the amount collected from allowances.

Parliament runs its own payroll system which SRC says it has not accessed despite numerous requests sent to PSC. “We are therefore not able to analyse the remuneration and benefits paid and assess their levels of compliance with the commission’s decisions,” says Ali Chege, Head of Communications, SRC.

According to the notice, a parliamentarian’s gross pay (basic salary and house allowance) should progress from Sh532,500 in the first year of service to Sh710,000 in the fifth year, increasing by Sh44,375 every year. Being the second year of the 12th Parliament, legislators should be earning Sh576,875 as gross pay and not the Sh532,500 PSC cited in the media statement.

On July 7, 2017, SRC published Gazette Notice number 6517, attempting to review MPs’ earnings, including introducing fixed pay of Sh621,250, removing the decades-old plenary session (house debate) allowances and capping committee meetings at 16 a month. The gazetted new fixed pay was not a pay cut as depicted by the MPs but a monthly average of the total amount to which they were entitled in the five years. PSC went to court and had it quashed on December 10, 2018.

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It is highly unlikely that MPs would oppose a document that would see their gross pay immediately rise from Sh532,500 to Sh621,250. Consequently, there has been speculation that the 12th Parliament had inherited the gross pay applicable in the fifth year of the 11th Parliament (Sh710,000). Information from the SRC says that this is indeed the case.

Parliament runs its own payroll system which SRC says it has not accessed despite numerous requests sent to PSC. “We are therefore not able to analyse the remuneration and benefits paid and assess their levels of compliance with the commission’s decisions,” says Ali Chege, Head of Communications, SRC.

The refusal to share information on lawmakers’ salaries is in violation of Section 13 (1) (a) and (c) of the SRC Act 2017, which empowers the commission to “gather, by any means appropriate, any information it considers relevant, including requisition of reports, records, documents or any information from any source, including governmental authorities” and to hold inquiries for the purposes of performing its functions under this Act.”

Many allowances

Despite this defiance, it is the long list of allowances and benefits that accompany the basic salary that leaves the taxpayer’s jaws jerking.

Members pocket Sh5,000 and Sh7,500 whenever they attend plenary sessions and committee meetings, respectively, according to a memorandum PSC sent to SRC on January 31. Committee chairpersons and vice-chairpersons get Sh15,000 and Sh12,000, respectively. According to the 2013 SRC gazette notice and circulars this amounts to about Sh240,000 a month.

Explaining in court why SRC wanted the plenary sitting allowance abolished, the agency argued that today’s legislators have gross pay, unlike those before the 11th Parliament, who earned solely from allowances.

In May, SRC complained in a media release that PSC had introduced and paid MPs illegal house allowance of Sh250,000, backdated to October 5, 2018. The salaries commission said it set gross pay for State officers, including MPs and senators, as comprising basic salary and house allowances. It has therefore maintained that the house allowance payment is illegal and that the legislators should return all the money paid to them.

However, in the July PSC press statement, Parliament complained that a conservatory order by the High Court has stopped them from earning house allowance, pointing out that “all other state and public officers are receiving house allowance”.
Even as they fight to get this revenue stream that has been suspended, pending a court ruling, parliamentarians have the option of a mortgage of Sh35 million, according to the PSC memo, which they have told SRC not to interfere with.

The SRC had attempted to reduce it to Sh20 million, at a three percent interest rate, a quarter of the market rate.

A car grant of Sh5 million (not paid back) and a car loan of Sh8 million are the other resources at the disposal of a legislator.

Your MP is also facilitated to travel to and tour constituencies, to the tune of between Sh356,525 and Sh936,782 a month, depending on the distance from Nairobi.

And whenever they are away from both the office and home, they receive a handsome daily subsistence allowance calculated based on what part of the country or the world they visit, according a 2014 SRC circular.

Parliamentarians also receive a medical cover capped at Sh10.6 million, inclusive of inpatient (Sh10 million), outpatient (Sh300,000), maternity (Sh150,000), dental (Sh75,000) and optical (Sh75,000), that also takes care of one spouse and four children below 25 years, when normally the age cap for many such packages is 18 years.

And if one dies in office, the insurance company parts with three times the deceased’s annual basic salary. Members can also claim up to a similar amount in case of a personal accident.

They are also entitled to a pension if they serve for more than one term, according to the Parliamentary Pensions Act. Single-term MPs take home a service gratuity of 31 percent of basic pay at the end of their term of Parliament.

And maybe because the Sh10,000 received for airtime every month is such a tiny one in the midst of the huge figures, it is the other allowance Parliament would rather not talk about.

In the press statement that called out the media, the PSC said they were “willing to work with the media to ensure accountability and transparency which we owe to the people of Kenya”. But this was yet another lie. Requests sent by Newsplex to Parliament, seeking clarifications on specific aspects regarding the welfare of parliamentarians, were unsuccessful. This, despite over two weeks of numerous follow-ups via emails and phone calls.

Over-represented

The cost of running the legislature has in the past few years sent many Kenyans thinking that they probably do not need these many representatives at the national and county levels. It is therefore not coincidental that reducing the number of representatives is a critical part of the changes proposed by the Punguza Mizigo referendum drive.

A Newsplex analysis of legislative representation in select countries with bigger economies shows that Kenyans have more representatives per population. With 1,450 elected MCAs, 416 national legislators (senators and MPs), 559 nominated MCAs and 47 governors, Kenya has one representative for every 19,337 citizens, higher than Nigeria’s (ward councillors, governors, and MPs and senators) 1: 24,263 and the US’ (senators, congress members, state legislators and governors) 1: 41,034 and South Africa’s (national assembly, national council of provinces and provincial lawmakers) 1: 62,804. But the country’s representation ratio is lower than that of the UK (1: 4,187).

However, the GDP (economy) of the UK is 32 times the size of Kenya’s. South Africa’s GDP is four times larger than Kenya’s, Nigeria’s 4.5 and the US’ 233.