Kenyans have paid MPs Sh1.2 billion for house allowance without the approval of Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), the High Court was told yesterday.
Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, in his response to a row between SRC and the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) over allowances, said taxpayers have shouldered Sh104 million every month for lawmakers’ house allowance.
According to the AG, it was illegal for MPs to get an additional Sh250,000 each in house allowance as PSC never consulted SRC and the money was not approved.
The court heard that lawmakers have pocketed the disputed allowances for a year now, as they were backdated to October 5, 2018.
The AG, SRC, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and activist Okiya Omtatah want the court to force PSC to deduct the money paid and return the same to the Treasury.
The case was filed by SRC before Justices Pauline Nyamweya, Weldon Korir and John Mativo, and they argue that MPs receive 40 per cent of their gross salary as consolidated allowances, which caters for all the pay they are entitled to.
“In cognisance of Parliament’s immense power, the Constitution includes checks to limit and effectively restrain Parliament’s power in determining members’ remuneration. Indeed, pay for all State and public officers is a constitutional issue. No person or State organ can determine their remuneration and, therefore, we urge the court to declare the action of PSC to award members a house allowance of Sh250,000 unconstitutional, thus null and void,” senior State counsel Thande Kuria argued.
At the same time, SRC’s lawyer Peter Wanyama told the court that MPs bulldozed the commission to ratify 19 allowances for themselves. The lawyer sensationally claimed that in retaliation, Parliament went ahead to slash SRC’s budgetary allocation. SRC employees, he said, do not have tea in the office as a result of the cut by MPs.
The PSC, on the other hand, wants the court to declare that SRC discriminated against them and that MPs are entitled to good pay.
The commission also wants the court to declare SRC’s 2013 Gazette notice which spells out MPs’ pay and allowances as unconstitutional. They also want to lift the current limit on sittings. SRC had limited the sittings to 16 times a month.
The MPs argued that salaries earned by MPs in the 11th Parliament ought to be retained on the basis of the high cost of living. and the fact that their predecessors used to earn more.
According to MPs, salaries and allowances set in 2013 have not been increased despite economic changes.
“By seeking to reduce the remuneration for State officers serving in 12th Parliament, the respondent has acted unreasonably and failed to take into account the rising cost of living since the remuneration and benefits were set in 2013. They failed to take into account the principle of equal pay to work of equal value,” PSC argued.
The judges heard that the composition of PSC leads to a conflict of interest as it would amount to MPs allocating themselves salaries.