MPs in new plot to give poll flops hefty send-off package

MPs and Senators who have served for only one term could soon be eligible for a State pension or gratuity, piling more pressure on taxpayers to fund the public wage bill.

This is if amendments proposed in the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill 2019 are passed into law.

“A Member of Parliament shall, at the beginning of the term of a newly elected Parliament, be paid either a pension or gratuity in accordance with the provisions of this Act,” states section 3A of the amended Bill in part.

Legislators who opt for a pension payment will pay 13 per cent of their gross monthly pay towards the Consolidated Fund.

While only two-term legislators are currently liable for a gratuity payment, the amendments now provide for payments to be made to legislators even without completing their first term.

“A person shall be entitled to receive gratuity under this section where the person ceases to be a Member of Parliament and has served an aggregate period of five years or less,” says section 7 of the Bill.

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This implies that even legislators who lose their seats halfway into their term will also receive a gratuity at the expense of the taxpayer. The gratuity is payable equal to 31 per cent of the MPs’ and Senators’ basic salary for the period served.

The Act will also see children of the retired legislators covered under the State benefits scheme until the ages of 18 instead of the previous 16 years.

The amendments are bound to stoke discontent among taxpayers already grappling with a high wage bill, worsened by lawmakers’ constant attempts to raise their perks.

Currently, the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and the Salaries Remuneration Commission (SRC) are engaged in a legal feud after the former paid MPs Sh250,000 each in house allowances backdated to October 2018. 

The SRC is seeking to block the payment, terming it unconstitutional and amounts to paying MPs house allowances twice since the allocation is already factored in the basic pay.

Additional allowances

“This unconstitutional action by Parliamentary Service Commission to pay MPs and senators house allowance of Sh250,000 monthly, will cost taxpayers an extra Sh104 million every month, which is Sh1.2 billion annually,” said SRC Chair Lyn Mengich.

Senators and MPs earn at least Sh621,250 in gross income per month, with additional allowances pushing up their monthly take-home to more than Sh1.4 million.

MPs serving in any of the numerous committees earn Sh5,000 per sitting, with the chairperson earning Sh8,000. In addition, MPs earn a monthly transport allowance of between Sh266,663 and Sh738,833, depending on the distance covered, an annual medical benefit for the whole family of Sh10 million inpatient, Sh300,000 outpatient as well as Sh150,000 for maternity cover and Sh75,000 for optical and dental cover each. 

MPs are also entitled to a life insurance cover of up to three times their annual basic pay, Sh7 million car loan and Sh20 million mortgage allowance to be paid at the end of their term at three per cent annual interest.

Instead of checking the executive’s borrowing and expenditure, lawmakers have over the years used their oversight function to extract more perks for themselves, giving the executive a blank check to sink the country deeper into debt. Taxpayers and small businesses have instead been left to pick up the tab.

In the next few weeks, for example, the State will start collecting a 16 per cent tax on all goods and services exchanged over the Internet as part of new levies introduced on e-commerce.

The new tax targets one of Kenya’s fastest-growing sectors and like the introduction of excise charges on digital transactions is effectively a case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

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