MPs vote to increase their salaries
Nairobi, Kenya: Tuesday caps a marathon effort by Members of the National Assembly to thwart the independent salaries commission by approving higher pay for themselves.
After agreeing last week not to adjourn sittings until they were sure their fattened package is safe in the bank, the MPs will Tuesday pass a hurried report that they believe will legally overturn what was set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) so they can pocket more money.
The report was processed within hours last Wednesday by the Committee on Delegated Legislation, just a day after the freshly constituted committee held its inaugural meeting to elect its chairperson.
Once Parliament adopts the committee’s report, MPs have insisted that Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) will rely on the National Assembly Remuneration Act to pay them Sh851, 000 monthly salary rather than Sh532000 stipulated by salaries commission.
This is in spite of the fact that the Act, which should have been repealed by the Tenth Parliament, conflicts with the Constitution.
MPs, many of whom have been taking salary advances in anticipation of the proposed package, shot down an adjournment Motion last Thursday when the report was tabled in the House because they were not keen to take their 11-day break before approving the crucial report.
To underscore the urgency of the matter, the Committee had earlier narrowed down the mandate of the probe into the dispute with the Sarah Serem-led SRC for speedy disposal.
After electing Baringo North MP William Cheptumo to chair the committee on Tuesday, eager members of the team had voted to immediately get down to work on the standoff with the salaries commission.
But parliamentary staff informed the committee that the petition seeking the removal of the SRC commissioners was complex as it would require them to summon the officials, an elaborate process that would take days. The MPs did not have the luxury of time, with the House due to go on a recess although members were yet to be paid their salaries.
Therefore the committee chose to separate the laborious petition by MP Mithika Linturi, and instead concentrate on the probe on the “legality of the gazette notice” published by SRC on March 1 that they would pass judgment by themselves.
After meeting twice on Wednesday, the committee prepared its report that declares Gazette Notice Nos. 2885, 2886, 2887 and 2888 published on the Kenya Gazette of March 1 unconstitutional.
The PSC commissioners will be sworn in before Friday, with their first business being to pay MPs, who have not received any salaries for the last three months.
Parliament has already budgeted for the higher salaries for MPs with a package that nearly doubles the Sh532,000 monthly pay set by the SRC. Calculations based on the budget estimates from the PSC indicate that the total basic and personal allowances for each of the 349 MPs, excluding the Speaker, will total Sh991,000. MPs allege the SRC broke the law by failing to submit to Parliament the legal notice that reduced their perks to Sh532,000 monthly.
The notices include one that abolished the Sh3.3 million free cash for purchase of luxury cars for each MP and replaced the grant with the Sh7 million-car loan repayable at three percent per annum.
The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) has said there is no law that compels the SRC to gazette salary structures as it can only communicate the same to respective institutions.
In the report, the committee has attached a letter by former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende dated February 22, warning Serem against gazetting the lower pay.
His successor, Justin Muturi, has defended the MPs’ intention to revoke the Serem notice claiming that Article 116 (3) empowers Parliament to pass legislation to confer benefits to MPs. However, such a law should benefit the next Parliament and not the one that passes it.
But Muturi argues that while the Constitution confers power to SRC to review and set salaries for
State officers, Parliament is mandated to pass laws that provide the process through which the SRC mandate is executed. “It is not inconsistent with the Constitution as it envisages a situation where the House passes legislation to confer benefits to members. In fact SRC in their own Act are required to make their reports through Parliament,” he said.
MPs are largely expected to adopt the Motion seeking the revocation of the notices, before adjourning for 11 days. The process began last week on Tuesday and by Thursday, a report proposing nullification of the gazette notices had been tabled in Parliament for either rejection or adoption. It all began on Tuesday with the election of Cheptumo to chair the Committee on Delegated Legislation.
Immediately afterwards, all 23 committee members unanimously resolved to hold meetings the same day to deliberate the matter.
But parliamentary clerks who informed them that there were no rooms available to hold a committee meeting held them back.
The Clerks also informed the MPs that they need time to summon individuals and legal experts who will appear before the committee and consequently the legislators over lunch hour.
Sacking Serem team
To shorten the procedure, the MPs opted to separate the petition by Linturi seeking the removal of Serem and her commissioners and on grounds of breaking the law and only dealt with the legality of the gazette notice.
This is after they were informed that the process of sacking the SRC boss would take almost two years.
“We are looking at the legality of the gazette notice,” Cheptumo said.
The following day on Wednesday, the committee met twice, during lunch hour and in the evening, to finalize their report, which was tabled on Thursday in Parliament.
The legislators accuse the SRC of breaking the law for failing to submit the March 2 legal notice to Parliament that reduced their perks.