MPs and senators brace for clash over Bill on pay, welfare

The Rev John Njoya participates in a protest against MPs salary increment. [File, Standard]
MPs have hatched a plot that might put President Uhuru Kenyatta in Catch 22 on proposed legislation to manage their salaries and perks as opposed to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

Insider sources have hinted to the Sunday Standard that the National Assembly special sitting’s Tuesday Order Paper might be amended to include the controversial Parliamentary Service Bill, whose transaction was halted to await the court verdict on the SRC salary cuts.

“On this one, the president should not take it lightly. It is touching the core of it – members’ welfare. He should not just reject it based on misrepresentation from media reports. We are determined to do everything to pass it,” vowed an MP who didn’t want to be named.

Surprisingly, there is also another cold war emanating from senators who are conspiring to reject the Bill under the guise of supporting the resolve of the president and opposition leader Raila Odinga, but in real sense protesting against exclusion of clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye from assuming the title of the commission’s boss. Nyegenye is the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) secretary.

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The Bill seeks, among others, to take the role of setting salaries and allowance from SRC to the PSC that is mandated to handle the MPs and staff welfare.

The MPs insist Nyegenye is not the Chief Executive Officer of Parliament but boss of Senate just as Michael Sialai is at the helm of the National Assembly. The Bill is expected to align with the PSC Act of 2007 and the Constitution, recognising the bicameral House established in 2013.

On December 10, High Court judge George Odunga quashed the SRC Gazette Notice which slashed MPs salaries and allowances, reinstating what legislators enjoyed in the 11th Parliament.

The landmark ruling, which SRC through its spokesperson Ali Chege affirmed will be challenged in the Court of Appeal, now drives the members to pass the Bill which has faced opposition from all quarters, including President Kenyatta and Raila.

The Sunday Standard learnt that the Bill was not included in the Order Paper of December 6 as they were awaiting the court’s verdict. When contacted, Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Town) said the Bill will be consider February, next year.

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The lawmakers have plans, including marshaling the two thirds of 233 members required to veto the president’s memorandum on the same. But Senator Ledama ole Kina (Narok) warns the Bill has been crafted in a way to kill the institution of the Senate.

“The role of the Chairperson and Secretary of PSC is clearly defined in this Constitution,” he said.

Senator Muhammad Mohammed (Mandera) said their colleagues should not display their ignorance.

“This Bill is meant to regulate the functions of Parliament. If the National Assembly thinks that this is their Bill, we do not want it,” he said.

Senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi) told the National Assembly that raising their salaries is not acceptable.

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“I know that Parliament and members already have the necessary terms and conditions of engagement in this country. We, therefore, say no to the issue of salary increment,” he said.

Senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru) lauded the president’s stand not to sign the Bill.

“My vote on this is no. It is this Bill that is going to send 75 per cent of parliamentarians home,” Kilonzo Jnr cautioned.

Mixed reactions

The Bill before the National Assembly has elicited mixed reactions over proposed salaries increment at a time the SRC is struggling to contain the ballooning wage bill. The salaries cuts and abolition of allowances was expected to raise Sh8 billion.

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In a rare show of might, the members of the National Assembly have threatened to not only surpass the threshold set in law but ensure all the 349 members rise to the occasion.

“It is unfortunate that when as lawmakers we say it as it is, we are branded gluttons. It means PSC was right. We thank Justice Odunga for being just,”  Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka said.

Homabay Town MP Opondo Kaluma who successfully challenged the salary cuts and abolition of allowances by SRC, on behalf of PSC, said there is nothing irregular with the Bill.

PSC commissioner Adan Keynan (Eldas) has already faulted the skewed reports on the Bill, saying it is very important as it recognises the bicameral Parliament and for the first time introduces performance contracting for staff.

Salaries and Remuneration CommissionPresident Uhuru KenyattaSRC