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Why National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi called EACC over MPs mileage claims row

COUNTIES
By Alphonse Shiundu | December 8th 2015

Cases of fake mileage claims nearly sparked a legislative mutiny in the National Assembly, forcing speaker Justin Muturi to invite the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission.

The uproar was led by legislators from 17 constituencies in Nairobi and those around the capital, who are not entitled to mileage claims.

Led by makadara MP Benson Mutura the law makers wrote to the speaker and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson seeking the abolition of the mileage claims.

“Other than this system of mileage reimbursement being prone to abuse, it is also extravagant and wasteful to say the least. We find it immoral and obscene considering the economic conditions of a majority of Kenyans,” the MPs said in their petition.

Mr Muturi called the MPs to a meeting and proposed the formation of the office of standards and ethics to check this unethical behaviour but this was rejected by the MPs.

“We had initially proposed an internal mechanism to deal with these issues. I came up with a proposal for an ombudsman, so that we have someone internally to give us advice on how to improve the systems. They shot it down and said they don’t want a prefect, that they don’t want a policeman,” said Muturi.

When the complaints persisted, Muturi wrote to the EACC.

 BEYOND REPROACH

“I am the one who invited the EACC to check our systems... We have to make sure we have working governance systems and that we are beyond reproach so that we have the moral authority to keep everyone else in check...” he said.

The legislators from constituencies in Nairobi gave an example of an MP from a far-flung constituency in Northern Kenya. The MP had lunch on a Saturday with his colleagues from constituencies in Nairobi County at the Intercontinental Hotel next to Parliament Buildings.

On Sunday, he met again with some of these colleagues again from the city. But on Tuesday morning, the Nairobi MPs were shocked when they met the MP with a work-ticket and a duly-filled claim form saying he had made the trip all the way to his constituency in Wajir County for the weekend. The journey to Wajir takes at least nine hours.

Another MP from Turkana County confronted Muturi over the delay in the processing of his mileage claims by the parliamentary accountants.

The MP said he had taken a flight to Lodwar (the county’s headquarters) and then driven to his constituency using the constituency vehicle, but he had shown up at the accountant’s office with a filled-in work ticket showing that he drove all the 700km from Nairobi to his home in the vast county using his personal car.

The journey by road takes at least 12 hours one way. With a return trip of approximately 2,260km at a rate of Sh187 per kilometre every week, the MP makes Sh1.7 million per month in mileage claims.

“How do you justify paying an MP mileage claims of Sh6.2 million per month? At times it is even cheaper to buy an air ticket,” Mr Muturi said.

Mbeere North MP and chair of Parliamentary Budget Committee Mutava Musyimi said the issue was of concern but could not comment further.

“I do not involve myself in such issues. We have a Parliamentary Service Commission which has a job to do, but it has asked another commission to do this job,” he said.

Public Investment Committee Chairman Adan Keynan said: “We have formed a task force to look into the issue and I do not want to prejudice the outcome.” However, the Eldas MP refused to comment on whether or not he knows that legislators were filing false mileage claims.

Still, some MPs who sit in the Parliamentary Service Commission use their official cars, fuelled every Tuesday at the expense of the taxpayer to go to their rural constituencies. They drive all the way, but when they return to the city, they file for mileage claims with a lie that they used their personal cars – and they get hundreds of thousands of shillings in reimbursements.

“There are instances where members make claims even when they have travelled out of the country on official functions,” reads the report of the EACC that corroborates complaints that MPs are paid mileage allowances even when the House is in recess and Parliament is not conducting any business.

Aside from mileage, there is a standing complaint against a vice chairman of a key parliamentary committee who steps into a committee meeting for two minutes, signs the attendance sheet and then steps out.

But at least that one shows up. There are others who simply tell their colleagues to sign the attendance sheet on their behalf using their initials so that they get the Sh7,500 per sitting of a committee.

 SYSTEMS REVIEW

With one MP sitting in at least two committees, and the committees having at least two meetings a week, and the House having four sittings a week, an MP can earn Sh50,000 a week (after tax) in sitting allowance.

The Standard cannot name the MPs for legal reasons and even the EACC omitted their names because as the chief executive Halakhe Waqo said, it wasn’t an investigation but a systems review. However, insiders in Parliament familiar with the workings of the Finance and Accounts Department and the EACC investigations corroborated the events and noted that most of the MPs were tainted for faking mileage claims.

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