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Criticism of MPs' pay proposal continues as Cabinet fails to meet

By | July 7th 2010

By Standard Team

The hefty retirement pay package for the Prime Minister, Vice-President and Speaker proposed in a Bill by the Parliamentary Service Commission is unrealistic.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) Chairperson Florence Jaoko termed the Bill misguided and based on selfish interests.

"The mind boggling proposals have no relationship to the economy or the plight of the majority of hardworking, taxpaying Kenyans and must not be allowed," she said.

Ms Jaoko regretted the allowance is intended to defeat provisions of the Proposed Constitution, which would no longer allow parties to determine their own remuneration.

Yesterday, The Standard revealed that a draft Bill proposes hefty pension for the PM, VP and Speaker and their families.

If it passes, the three would upon retirement enjoy 80 per cent of the salaries they earned while in office.

The KNCHR boss said the same way retirement benefits are predetermined and guided by principles of remunerations for other citizens should also apply to the families of the three offices regardless of how many wives, husbands or children one has.

Burden workers

The National Council of Churches of Kenya has also protested at the proposal, arguing the package would burden workers.

Secretary General Peter Karanja further stressed the need to de-link Parliament and Cabinet from having power to determine their salaries.

Meanwhile, a lobby group will hold a peaceful demonstration tomorrow to protest the proposed salary increase for MPs.

National Civil Society Congress had planned the protest for yesterday, but postponed it after more groups indicated willingness to attend.

This comes a day after a Cabinet meeting to discuss the MPs’ salary among other issues was cancelled at the last minute. The President cancelled the meeting following the official visit by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"In the spirit of solidarity, we have opted to take more time to reach out, consult and plan. We are reaching out to civil society organisations across the country as well as to workers through their unions," said the Congress president Morris Odhiambo.

The group also said it would petition Parliament that the proposed increase is not sustainable in the face of poverty affecting millions of Kenyans and high domestic debt.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, and Planning Assistant Minister Peter Kenneth are among MPs who have opposed the proposals.

Sources said Uhuru was prepared to advise the Cabinet against approving the increment, saying by doing so, the Government would face fierce protests. Mr Kenneth said MPs should first pay taxes before thinking of increasing their salaries.

Lead from the front

Kenneth, one of the few MPs who volunteered to pay tax, said President Kibaki, Raila and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka must lead from the front in paying taxes.

Addressing journalists at Parliament Buildings, the minister, who is among three MPs who have been paying taxes, said he was opposed to salary increment as proposed in the Akiwumi Commission report.

"That is why it is important to have a new constitution in order to have a national remuneration commission that sets out the pay perks," he said.

Article 230 of the Proposed Constitution creates a Salaries and Remuneration Commission that will be responsible for the review of the remuneration and benefits of all state officers. The Proposed Constitution would also not exempt MPs from paying taxes. Currently only their basic salaries are taxed.

A tribunal reviewing salaries and terms of MPs, chaired by retired judge Akilano Akiwumi recommended the new perks.

According to the recommendations, an MP was to take home Sh1.2 million in basic salary and allowances up from Sh851,000.

The salary of the Prime Minister was also raised to Sh3,246,000 per month, with the vice-president earning Sh2,796,000, the Speaker Sh2,766,000, his deputy Sh1,841,000 and the two deputy prime ministers Sh1,891,000 each per month.

And more than 800 Government employees in Siaya, Ugenya and Gem vowed to back the Union of Kenya Civil Servants, which has threatened to call a strike over salary increments, if the increment is effected.

The civil servants demanded the Government must first consider their plight. "We are demanding the remaining 17 per cent salary increment plus commuter allowances be paid as was promised," said Siaya Branch Secretary Romlas Okwany.

— Reporting by Lucianne Limo, Peter Opiyo, Beauttah Omanga, George Olwena, and Martin Mutua

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