Salary: Members of Parliament turn guns on President Uhuru

By ALLAN KISIA

NAIROBI; KENYA: Angry MPs have vowed to slash President Uhuru’s salary and substantially reduce budgetary allocations to plunge independent commissions into a cash crisis as retaliation for opposition to their higher salaries.

A group of lawmakers who have been leading calls for higher salaries with the tacit backing of a majority of Parliament warned they could hit back as early as Tuesday, when the National Assembly resumes after a brief break to begin budget approval hearings.

And the furious MPs plan to go a step further to throw the Government’s spending plans into disarray, angry about opposition to them earning Sh850,000 monthly salary than Sh532,000 set by salaries commission.

On Wednesday, President Uhuru added his voice against MPs’ plans to award themselves higher salaries on the day that a warning went out that any attempt at unilateral action could provoke abuse of office charges against individuals held responsible.

That warning appeared to have had its desired effect as the MPs turned their guns on the President, members of commissions that have been ranged against them and the government in general.

In a further blow for MPs late on Thursday, the high court ordered that MPs continue to earn the set salary until a suit filed before it is determined.

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The MPs announced plans on Thursday to press a raft of measures to shrink the Government’s revenue base that would further complicate financing plans, considering Treasury faces a Sh163 billion deficit in its 2013/14 Sh1.6 trillion budget.

Blackmail government

The MPs intend to lower value-added tax (VAT), remove income tax for Kenyans earning Sh50,000 and below, and reduce the fuel levy. They plan this under the guise of helping out ordinary Kenyans, but in reality the intention is to blackmail Government.

MPs Jimmy Angwenyi (Kitutu Chache North), Mithika Linturi (Igembe South), John Mbadi (Suba) and Bare Shill (Fafi) announced their plans during a press conference at Parliament Buildings on Thursday. Earlier Ndhiwa MP Augostino Neto said the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has gone amok and needed to be tamed.

The MPs claimed since their salaries had been reduced by 57 per cent, they would ensure that salaries of other State officers are slashed by the same proportion.

They have however worked out the difference based on their take-home after taxation of Sh532,000. They do not disclose a raft of other allowances they are entitled to. Mbadi said MPs do not need the Finance Bill to institute the measures. “We will reduce the salaries in the Budget Estimates and not through the Appropriations Bill,” he explained.

Mbadi added: “Commissions which think they are too independent will see it. We are going to reduce their budgets by 57 per cent.”

Under the new pay structure, the President receives a monthly salary of Sh1.24 million, down from the Sh2 million former President Kibaki received.

Fuel levy

If MPs insist on a 57 per cent reduction of the previous salary of Sh2 million, it means President Uhuru’s current salary could be slashed by a further Sh300,000.

Parliament will also look at the Judiciary and other State officer’s salaries and reduce them further if they had not been lowered by 57 per cent by the SRC, vowed the MPs.

On plans to reduce the taxes, the MPs claimed they want to save Kenyans from harsh economic times after receiving a “wake up call.” Mbadi said the House is going to lower the VAT, remove income tax for Kenyans earning Sh50,000 and below and lower the fuel levy among other measures “to improve the lives of Kenyans.” The legislators said they would initiate retaliatory measures since the House is “under siege and under threat.”

“Some people are thinking that Parliament has no powers. We want to invite them on Tuesday to see for themselves what we can do,” said Mbadi.

Angwenyi said their efforts are aimed at bringing the cost of living down. “The fuel levy is too high. The levy is designed to improve the state of our roads but as we know, our roads are in very bad condition,” he added.

Shill said the rich would be taxed heavily and that Kenyans should not throw stones if they live in glass houses. “Maybe we have not been doing our job properly. This time, we will make sure we do our job properly. Those who have been struggling with life will live comfortably,” he said.

He said MPs would make new laws if they were needed in their plans. “MPs can make any law, even the non-existent law. If that law is not there, we will create it,” he added. “We will show who is in charge. It is not about revenge though,” Shill added.

Focus on Serem

“You do not know when you will receive a wake-up call. If you are not married, you will come across a beautiful girl and then get a wake-up call,” said Angwenyi without elaboration.

Linturi said they couldn’t allow threats from institutions that they do not report to.

Earlier, Linturi, who recently submitted a petition to Parliament that is intended to culminate in the removal of the SRC team, had declared they could not be held to account.  Linturi termed SRC chairperson Sarah Serem’s threat on Wednesday that they would sue anybody who effects illegal pay for MPs as wishful thinking. “We are giving a lot of time and focus on Serem, who in my view is nobody. Somebody who for one reason or another is just drunk with this very little power conferred to her by the Constitution,” said the MP.

Neto said the Constitution Implementation Commission chairman Charles Nyachae would be appearing before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to defend his budget. “That is the paradox. He might be thumping his chest out there but down here, he knows who cracks the whip,” he stated. Nyachae has indicated that he will take legal action against the Parliamentary Service Commission and individual Members of Parliament if they draw salaries above the Sh532,000 set by the SRC.

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Charles Nyachae President Uhuru MPs Kibaki SRC