Why MPs insist on more allowances in battle with SRC

SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich

MPs have insisted their allowances must be increased even as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) fights off claims it is biased against the lawmakers.

Sources at Parliament told The Standard yesterday SRC has received similar demands from the Judiciary only that it has not made them public.

MPs claims the commission has awarded judges and magistrates special allowances and wondered why it has rejected their demands. 

Last December, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) sought to have the allowances reviewed from Sh150,000 to Sh500,000 for Chief Justice and Sh450,000 for his deputy.

They are also said to have demanded compensatory allowances for using their private residences.

Others who wanted the allowances increased included principal judges and their deputies. Resident judges would get Sh130,000 while heads of station would pocket 20 per cent of their basic pay.

But SRC wrote back to JSC, on December 13, 2018, asking it to have the issues deferred pending analysis and consultations between the two bodies.

“The purpose of this letter is to convey the commission’s guidance and clarification for your further action,” said SRC Secretary Anne Gitau in the letter copied to Treasury PS.

A parliamentary official claimed SRC has since given in to JSC demands.

“Why is SRC playing double standards by lynching MPs whereas they have awarded JSC huge allowances? Ask them what the wish list from JSC was before awarding the same. What is the wish list from the executive and constitutional commissions and independent offices?” a well-placed source, who asked not to be named, said.

The source added: “SRC is fighting Parliament by revealing their wish list but not giving their response if any. If they are honest, why have they given in to demands by other arms of government? SRC is biased against just MPs.”

Yesterday, SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich said the said allowances existed even before she came into officer.

“The request was to extend the same to other officers since the courts have expanded. Affected judicial officers were not in the initial list,” she said.

Mengich also said her commission declined a request to increase allowances paid to the CJ and the DCJ.

She dismissed claims her commission had secretly hammered a deal with the Judiciary over the perks and decided to wage war with MPs.

Mengich said they have received memoranda from government entities, including Parliament and the Judiciary which were dealt with in a confidential manner.

“We’ve not leaked or shared any correspondence with anybody as claimed. Parliament’s memorandum did not originate from us. We ensure confidentiality with our clients.”

JSC secretary Ann Amadi did not respond to our inquiries.

JSC had demanded that a judge of the Court of Appeal be paid a gross salary of Sh1.1 million, a High Court judge Sh1 million, a chief magistrate Sh727,000 and senior resident magistrate Sh324, 000.

This is far much higher than MPs and deputy governors who get gross pay of Sh621,000. Governors earn Sh924,000 while speakers of both Houses get Sh1.1 million.

In her letter, Mrs Gitau said if they give in to the demands, salaries paid to judges and magistrates would supersede remuneration set by SRC.

She said special allowances should only be paid to judicial officials with additional special responsibilities and should not exceed Sh150,000 per month.

The Standard established SRC is also yet to respond to the AG Kihara Kariuki’s opinion on the Sh250,000 monthly housing allowance advanced to MPs by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

The commission sought AG’s opinion based on Justice Chacha Mwita’s ruling on October 5, 2018 on whether deputy governors should get house allowance.

“The AG’s opinion relied on Mwita’s decision that every state officer is entitled to house allowance from the employer or a housing benefit,” said a senior parliamentary official.

SRC is also yet to appeal Mwita’s ruling. Instead, the commission moved to court to challenge payment of MPs’ house allowance and sought to recover Sh830 million already paid to them.