By ALEX NDEGWA
Kenya: Parliament has finally agreed to the pay set by the Sarah Serem-led salaries commission, ending three months of agitation that set them against the President, the courts, public and media.
The new deal for salaries and benefi ts was reached after talks between officials of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) headed by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.
Deputy President William Ruto hosted the talks at his official residence in Karen that lasted from 4pm to 10pm on Monday.
The 416 MPs — 349 members of the National Assembly and 67 Senators — will be paid a taxable Sh532,500 monthly salary as previously set by SRC. This amount will rise by Sh44,375 every year, increasing an MP’s salary to Sh710,000 by the fifth year.
But in exchange for dropping demands for Sh851,000, which was paid to members of the last Parliament, MPs secured new benefits.
The announcement came on the ‘Occupy Parliament’ protestors blocked the entrance to Parliament during protests to condemn legislators’ push for higher salaries and the High Court extended orders requiring that MPs be paid Sh532,500 until a case filed by the Law Society of Kenya was determined.
The deal will come as a blow for legislators who had sought to assert Parliament’s power over salaries and appeared set out to dismantle the SRC.
‘Not about money’
“We have negotiated for so long and it is not necessary to continue with the haggling,” National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi told The Standard yesterday confirming the deal.
“It is unfortunate that some people were busy protesting and yet they do not know matters have been settled.”
Muturi explained PSC had convinced SRC to shelve the ceiling on the number of committee sittings in a week.
“The SRC was trying to control the House, it is not about the money. Committee sittings, say on Saturday, are subject to a resolution of the House. It must be on necessity like when we sat at the weekend to vet Cabinet nominees,” he added.
Muturi added Parliament would work out another medical ex gratia payment and notify the SRC. He explained some members exhaust the medical cover and there is need to sort out the problem.
All the SRC commissioners and nine PSC commissioners were present at the meeting in Karen.
The Standard established the two teams signed the deal that commits both parties to its implementation. It is understood President Uhuru had asked Ruto to help broker the deal to end the crisis that has posed a threat to parliamentary business.
PSC commissioners present were Adan Keynan, Jimmy Angwenyi, Gladys Wanga and Regina Chengorok (members of the National Assembly) and Senators Beth Mugo, David Musila and Sammy Leshore. The Clerk of the Senate Jeremiah Nyegenye is the secretary of the commission.
In the new deal, each MP will be entitled to Sh5 million free cash for the purchase of luxury vehicles. That will cost the taxpayer Sh2.08 billion.
The car grant replaces a car loan the SRC had initially recommended after scrapping the Sh3.3 million free cash for purchase of cars paid out to members of the 10th Parliament.
SRC had recommended a car loan of up to Sh7 million repayable at an interest rate of 3 per cent per annum within five years or before end of term. The SRC had said the benefits were subject to the availability of funds.
MPs will also retain their contributory pensions scheme in which the government tops up members’ contributions that the SRC had scrapped.
The MPs also secured another concession on mileage allowances so that refunds will be based on Automobile Association (AA) rates on vehicle running costs.
SRC had recommended that mileage allowances be paid per week of travel(s) up to a maximum of 52 weeks in one calendar year for the journeys between Nairobi and their constituencies at AA rates.
The President and his deputy had asked the MPs to abandon the push for higher salaries as part of measures to reduce the spiraling wage bill. It emerged the President and his deputy were determined to use all means necessary to end the crisis.
“Jubilee members of the team had been told if they did not accept the deal they would be replaced,” a source familiar with the discussions told The Standard yesterday.
PSC authorises payments to legislators and other parliamentary staff, alongside other expenditure incurred by Parliament.
After MPs controversially voted to revoke the four gazette notices by which the SRC stipulated the modest salaries for State officers, the nine members of the PSC were warned they would personally be held responsible for illegal payments to MPs in excess of the amount set by SRC.
The High Court subsequently issued orders restraining PSC from paying MPs higher salaries until the petition filed by LSK was determined.
Other benefits for MPs include a mortgage scheme of up to Sh20 million repayable at an interest rate of three per cent per year within five years or before end of term.
MPs are also entitled to committee sitting allowances of Sh5,000 per day of meeting(s) subject to a maximum of four days in a week and a maximum of Sh80,000 per month. (A member who attends all parliamentary sessions pockets Sh20,000 a week — Sh80,000 per month — exclusive of committee sittings).
MPs with additional responsibilities (Leader of Majority, Minority, chairpersons of committees, members of Speaker’s Panel, Chief Whips and Minority Whips) are entitled to an additional allowance up to a maximum of Sh150,000.
Chairpersons of committees earn Sh10,000 per day of meeting(s) subject to a maximum of four days per week and a maximum of Sh160,000 per month. Vice chairpersons will pocket Sh8,000 per day of meeting(s) subject to a maximum of four days in a week and a maximum of Sh128,000 per month.