GREEDY KENYAN MPS FIGHT TO GET SH7 MILLION EACH TO BUY LUXURY CARS
Nairobi, Kenya: Members of Parliament now say Sh5 million cash offered to each of them free to buy luxury vehicles is not enough and plan to increase it to Sh7 million.
The MPs say they are entitled to own sleek cars befi tting their status. The money would be interest-free from Kenyan taxpayers and the MPs would not have to repay it.
In value terms, Sh7 million is sufficient to buy a fashionable flat in some parts of Nairobi.
It is also enough cash to import and pay duty on two Toyota Landcruiser Prados, with the statutory age limit of seven years, and still have some change left over for petrol to drive them to Nairobi from Mombasa.
A check by The Standard yesterday of a local used car website, www.Cheki.co.ke, showed that seven-year old Landcruiser
Prados, used only overseas, were retailing at between Sh4.3 million and Sh3.7 million, duty paid.
Car loans from commercial banks are payable within four years at interest rates of 19 per cent to 24 per cent, with most applicants restricted to vehicles not older than five years, which are more costly.
Initially, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission had recommended a Sh7 million car loan for MPs repayable at an interest rate of 3 per cent a year within five years, or before end of their five-year term.
But the commission backed down and agreed to change the loan into a Sh 5 million grant, with clearance from the Treasury.
It was meant to replace the Sh3.3 million grant pocketed by Members of the 10th Parliament for the purchase of duty-free cars. Converting it to a loan was part of measures to address spiraling wage bill, but that has since changed.
SRC chairperson Sarah Serem published the new benefits for MPs on March 8 that also included a Sh20 million mortgage facility — charged at an interest rate of 3 per cent a year and payable over five years.
The reviewed benefits were an addendum to the new salaries published earlier in the Kenya Gazette, which saw the salaries of MPs slashed from Sh850,000 to Sh532,000.
Angered by the pay cuts that they termed as insufficient to sustain their lifestyles, the lawmakers plotted retaliatory measures to force the commission to increase their pay.
They are yet to receive any salary as Parliament negotiates for higher pay and the Sh5 million-car grant was among the concessions by the SRC.
Considering there are 416 MPs — 349 members of the National Assembly and 67 Senators — awards of Sh5 million each translates to Sh2.08 billion.
But should they have their way on the demands for Sh7 million each, the taxpayer will be slapped with a bill of Sh2.9 billion.
The MPs have said if they do not get Sh7 million free to buy luxury cars, then the Government must provide them with vehicles and drivers just like other State officers.
The Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate are excluded from the grant as they get government vehicles.
The MPs argue the cost of maintenance and fueling State vehicles in the long run is higher than giving them Sh7 million to import the same.
The lawmakers explain they are demanding Sh3.7 million more than what was paid out to members of the last Parliament because they will not enjoy the duty-free facility.
Yesterday, MPs Mithika Linturi, Gideon Mungaro, Johnson Sakaja, Richard Onyonka and Shakeer Shabir said told The Standard it is either the Sh7 million or they are allocated State vehicles.
“We are asking Sarah Serem what type of car can one buy with Sh5 million. Does she want MPs to go and buy cheap cars like a (Toyota) Probox?” asked Linturi who has sponsored a petitioner seeking the removal of SRC commissioners over the pay dispute.
He said State officers like the SRC boss are chauffeured in top of the range cars fueled by the Government.
Sh5m too little
“Ask the SRC chair which car she uses and who fuels it. I think a minimum of Sh7 million is reasonable for MPs to get good cars even if it’s a second hand (used) car,” Linturi added.
Mung’aro, who is the opposition Chief Whip, said if the State feels the Sh7 million is costly it should consider allocating them vehicles.
“Can you import a proper car with Sh5 million? Give us the GK vehicles that you give to DCs, DOs,” the Kilifi North MP added.
Johnson Sakaja, the TNA nominated MP, concurred: “If you think Sh7 million is too much, the alternative is to give us GK vehicles, drivers and you fuel and maintain the cars for five years and see how much it will cost.”
Onyonka, the Kitutu Chache South MP, also defended the demand for Sh7 million grant.
“The reason why MPs are demanding Sh7 million is that this money is all inclusive unlike the Tenth Parliament legislators who got 3.3 million, but the employer paid the import duty.”
Shabeer said Sh5 million is sufficient, but supported calls for more cash.
Aden Duale, the Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly said he had filled out forms to the PSC seeking a grant to acquire a car “be it Sh5 million or Sh7 million.”
Yesterday, the MPs said they were waiting for the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to be constituted to press for the Sh7 million-grant.