Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MPs plot blackmail on former Prime Minister Raila Odinga over perks

Kenya: A plan to secure former Prime Minister Raila Odinga a retirement package looks set to become a new source of friction between the Jubilee and CORD coalitions.

Heading into the weekend, it emerged that CORD Members of the National Assembly are to seek an amendment to the Presidential Retirement and Benefits Act enjoyed by former President Kibaki.

They want to confer similar State-funded retirement benefits on the former Prime Minister and ex-Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

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In January, Kibaki refused to sign into law the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill 2012 that sought to secure the packages for the two, because it included clauses that would have given MPs in the Tenth Parliament entitlement to State funerals, and tripled their gratuity packages.

But even before details of the proposed Amendment Bill are finalised, MPs allied to the ruling Jubilee coalition have already vowed to block it in the House unless Raila officially declares his retirement from politics.

Earlier this month, claims that Raila had been barred from using a VIP lounge at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) reopened old wounds between the two coalitions following the March 4 presidential contest.

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On Thursday , MPs allied to CORD (Coalition for Reforms and Democracy) signaled they would press for an amendment to the Act to include State-funded perks for Raila, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, former Speaker of the Tenth Parliament Kenneth Marende and his deputy Farah Maalim.

Currently, Raila is only entitled to his retirement benefits as a former MP, which is fixed by the National Assembly Remuneration Act that also defines the benefits due to Kalonzo, Marende and Maalim.

Suna East MP Mohamed Junet will sponsor the proposed Presidential Retirement Benefits Act Amendment Bill 2013. They will justify the Bill by, among other things, noting that the Act in its current form is against the new Constitution since it does not include the Deputy President who is elected with the President on one ticket.

They will also say that having been co-principal to Kibaki in the Grand Coalition Government, Raila is a former State officer entitled to a befitting retirement package, as is Kalonzo.

Junet said the CORD coalition leader should enjoy security, aides and domestic workers at State expense since he served as former President Kibaki’s co-principal for five years.

He said they are working out details of the proposed Presidential Retirement Benefits Act Amendment Bill for submission to the National Assembly soon. “I will be introducing a Bill on that because ordinarily anyone who has left office needs to get his/her benefits,” he added.

But Leader of the Minority Coalition in the National Assembly, Mr Francis Nyenze said the Bill to amend the Act should not be pegged on a precondition for Raila and Kalonzo to quit politics. He said the two should be accorded their retirement package on the basis of serving in the Grand Coalition Government.

“It’s a pity that the Government still wants to give Kibaki a Sh700 million office after getting other benefits, but not extend any to Raila who was his equal in the coalition Government,” he said. “Raila should get the equivalent of what Kibaki gets while Kalonzo gets something reasonable,” Nyenze added. “ Raila Odinga was a ‘co-president’ whether you want to accept it or not. Read the National Accord because I know many people in this House are illiterate,” Deputy leader of Minority Jakoyo Midiwo thundered in the House on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Leader of the Majority Coalition in the National Assembly, Mr Aden Duale said the ex-PM and ex-VP were not entitled to the perks as they were not retired State officers but politicians who lost March 4 elections yet remain active in politics.

Duale argued that even if the Retirement Benefits Bill vetoed by Kibaki had been passed, the two would still have missed out on the benefits.

Approve Bill

Under the rejected Bill, there was a provision that a beneficiary or their dependents could be denied the benefits if the person held office in, or actively engaged in the activities of-any political party contrary to its provisions.

“Raila and Kalonzo are not retired but election losers,” Duale said, while clarifying that the Sh34 million that Treasury allocated him in the supplementary budget had already been spent. “This was money spent while Raila was serving as Prime Minister and Treasury was seeking to regularize the expenditure by bringing it for approval,” Duale added.

A Jubilee MP was more blunt saying the ruling coalition’s MPs will shoot down Junet’s Bill because Raila and Kalonzo are still active politicians. “If Parliament will introduce a package for the Speaker, former Prime Minister and former Vice President, Jubilee will shoot it down unless the Bill provides that the beneficiaries retire from politics,” the MP added.

Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka said the amendment is not tailored for Raila and Kalonzo alone, but all other senior state officers who have retired or will retire in the future. “This law will also provides for other leaders such as Moody Awori and even Deputy President William Ruto when he leaves office.”

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