MPs' house allowances perks put on hold

Parliament in a past session. [File, Standard]
Legislators will not enjoy hefty house allowances after the High Court on Friday directed that the perks be suspended until a case challenging them is determined.

 Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya, Justice Weldon Korir and Justice John Mativo directed the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) not to release any house allowance to the 416 legislators in both the Senate and National Assembly.

“The status quo will remain in force pending determination of the petition. This means that the orders earlier issued stopping PSC from paying housing allowance to MPs are still in force,” ruled Justice Nyamweya.

The judges also directed that two petitions challenging the MPs allowances filed by Salaries and Remuneration Commission and activist Okiya Omtata be consolidated.

The legislators in April secretly awarded themselves Sh250,000 monthly house allowance after the SRC rejected a request by PSC to effect the payments.

The MPs also got Sh2.25 million backdated to October last year.

But SRC and Omtata argued that the PSC’s decision to set, approve and pay housing allowance to MPs was outside the constitutional structure of remuneration and benefits of all state officers, and should be declared illegal.

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The commission claimed that PSC requested for approval for the house allowance in January but the request was declined on grounds that the legislators enjoy other perks including mortgage to purchase houses.

“SRC was clear that the request was unmerited, and that it any event, they had set additional benefits to MPs in form of mortgages at affordable interest rates to buy houses as a means to address their accommodation needs,” said SRC lawyer Peter Wanyama.

Mr Wanyama told the court the commission was surprised when PSC decided to go against their advice to pay MPs the hefty house allowances when it is not sustainable in the current economic challenges the country is facing.

He stated that MPs cannot currently benefit from a separate payment of house allowances because their pay in already consolidated to factor in other numerous allowances and benefits paid from public coffers.

The commission maintained that MPs are state officers and cannot earn additional income without their approval and that the PSC’s decision to pay the house allowances was illegal, null and void.

He stated that PSC does not have the powers to set salaries and allowances for MPs, and that the decision to pay the house allowances was an abuse to the public who are already burdened in shouldering the MPs huge salaries.

However, the MPs in their response to the suit claim that the house allowance was justified to conform with other state officers who enjoy similar parks.

They accused the SRC of discrimination, adding that they followed all required legal procedures before awarding themselves the new allowances.

The judges scheduled the hearing on October 9.

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Parliamentary Service CommissionMPs allowancesMPs house allowances