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MPs award themselves Sh2b sendoff pay

KENYA
By - | October 6th 2012

By MARTIN MUTUA

Members of Parliament gave themselves a cool Sh10 million each in a last-minute change the Finance Act on Thursday night.

As Kenyans slept, MPs sat late into the night to pass several pieces of legislation. Among them was the Finance Act to which they introduced an amendment that gave them their final ‘golden handshake’.

The change will see taxpayers cough up another Sh2.2 billion for a send-off that covers 222 members of the National Assembly, including House Speaker Kenneth Marende and Attorney General Githu Muigai who are members by virtue of their offices.

This latest example of unbridled greed follows other irregular changes to allowances for current and former MPs sneaked through five months ago.

This is in addition to the Sh825 million approved in the Finance Act passed last month as gratuity payments for MPs. This brings the total wrung out of public coffers in the last six months alone to more than Sh3 billion, far more than was being sought in pay to end the strike by public sector doctors.

Wajir West MP Adan Keynan moved the amendment after Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and Finance Minister Njeru Githae approved it.

Keynan, who is also the vice chair person of the Parliamentary Service Commission, proposed a change to the National Assembly Remuneration Act, the law that stipulates the salaries and allowances for MPs and other Parliament staff.

He introduced what he referred to as “severance allowance” to be calculated at the rate of 31 per cent per year on the gross taxable salaries for MPs.

 It also includes constituency allowance, allowances for Nominated MPs, ex officio members allowance, house allowance, extraneous allowance, transport allowance, entertainment allowance and vehicle fixed cost allowance.

According to the amendment, which will benefit only members of the Tenth Parliament, the severance allowance is to be at the rate of 31 per cent of the salary specified in the National Assembly Remuneration Act to be back dated to August 12, 2010. MPs earn a gross salary of Sh851,000.

The severance allowance will be calculated by multiplying it by 31 per cent for the five years amounting to Sh15 million. When the figure is subjected to taxation at 30 per cent, then each member is set to take home Sh10 million.

 To pay all 222 members, the taxpayer should be prepared to part with a cool Sh2.2 billion.

The Bill, which was passed on Thursday night, is now awaiting President Kibaki’s assent. Once effected it will enable the legislators smile all the way to the bank. Parliament was set to adjourn on Thursday for a month long recess after having passed the Finance Bill together with the controversial Election (Amendment) Bill that gave over 100 members a life line after cushioning them from losing their seats owing to party hopping.

Interestingly both the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill and the Finance Bill were debated after 8pm with only 30 members present at the time.

The House failed to adjourn as expected after Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Eugene Wamalwa withdrew the controversial Election Regulation Bill that is meant to guide the conduct of aspirants during and after the forthcoming March 4 elections.

Wamalwa said he had taken the move to allow for more consultation fuelling speculation that there might be some contentious issues that have not been agreed upon by members.

The latest move by MPs comes barely a day after the MPs engaged in another mischief allowing them free hand to switch political parties at will.

By amending the Election Act, the MPs selfishly accorded themselves a lifeline to party hopping. The import of this is that current MPs will be free to keep changing parties until January 3, 2013, only two months to the general election.

The disparity of their action, is that the legislators have accorded themselves more time, while challengers from the civil service were compelled to resign six months earlier.

Among those who left, nearly four months ago, is former Education Permanent Secretary and presidential hopeful, Prof James Ole Kiyiapi. Kiyiapi has repeatedly protested at the unfair legislation that pushed him out of employment, while at the same time retained his challengers, who are still serving as MPs.

The original Act required that members belong to the party through which they will vie for seats, at least three months to January 4. That deadline was this Thursday.

The changes now mean that the over 100 MPs party hoppers will now serve their full term without any legal challenge.

Coming in the wake of a series of strikes by a number of professional bodies, including teachers, university lecturers, medical doctors and lately civil servants, the MPs pay hike is ill-timed.

Nonetheless, it was expected. Only last month, the move got the backing of none other than the Speaker of the National Assembly, Kenneth Marende.

Speaking during the opening of a job evaluation exercise for Sate and Constitutional office holders, Marende said he would write to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission asking for an increase in MPs salaries.

 The Speaker said the Sh851,000 the MPs earn in salary and allowances per month was less than what other top commissioners in other state institutions earn, yet Parliament vets and holds into account these other office holders.

He cited the instance of the Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority, who reports to Parliament through the Ministry of Finance, earns a monthly salary of Sh800,000 and an allowance of Sh700,000 making a total of Sh1.5 million.

Earlier in 2010, the MPs also voted for themselves generous salary awards in a record 30 minutes, which included a 100 per cent increase in sitting allowances, after amending the recommendations of a pay tribunal chaired by retired appellate judge Akilano Akiwumi.

The move sparked an outrage across the country, with various lobby groups calling for street protests.

 Then Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, was, however, categorical that there is no money to pay the MPs, setting the stage for a stand-off with the MPs in Parliament. But the out rightly greedy MPs threatened to hit back by paralysing Government operations in Parliament if Uhuru did not play ball.

In all instances, the public and members of civil society have roundly condemned the legislators of their controversial pay rise proposals.

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