Nine members of the Parliamentary Service Commission risk ‘abuse of office’ charges

Chairman of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae addresses the Press at his of? ce, yesterday. He said Parliamentary Service Commission members risk facing charges of abuse of of? ce over MPs’ salary demands. [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]


Kenya: Nine members of the Parliamentary Service Commission will face abuse ofoffi ce charges if they approve higher pay for MPs than what was set by the salaries commission.

Led by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, the PSC commissioners include the Clerk of the Senate Jeremiah Nyegenye, who is the secretary. Others who are yet to be sworn in are MPs Jimmy Angwenyi, Adan Keynan, Regina Changorok and Gladys Wanga, as well as Senators Beth Mugo, Sammy Leshore and David Musila.

Two independent commissions put on notice members of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), a day after MPs approved  motion to revoke legal notices that reduced their monthly salary from Sh851,000 to Sh532,000. But PSC members responded that they couldn’t be punished for implementing a resolution by the full House, setting the stage for a landmark confrontation.

As the acrimonious exchanges raged, President Uhuru Kenyatta urged a settlement “within the law” but clarified that “the Constitution explicitly mandates the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to set and review the salaries of all State officers.”

The SRC, which set the modest salaries for top State officials to curb the spiraling public sector wage bill, said Parliament acted illegally by purporting to quash the four gazette notices.

The commission’s chairperson Sarah Serem warned that anyone who effects the illegal pay for MPs will personally be held liable and probably face prosecution for economic crimes.

The Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) also warned it would move to court to have anyone responsible for the illegal payments declared unfit to hold public office.

CIC chair Charles Nyachae added the commission would petition the courts to have members surcharged for payments above the Sh532,000 fixed by the salaries commission.

The warnings were apparently directed at the nine-members of the PSC, which is tasked with looking after the welfare of members including, approving their salaries.

MPs expect the first business for PSC commissioners, who are due to be sworn in today or tomorrow, will be to approve that each legislator be paid Sh850,000 monthly salary backdated three months, citing the National Assembly Remuneration Act.

The mandate

This because the MPs are yet to be paid their salaries since they assumed office in March because of the stalemate that they however believe they unlocked on Tuesday. 

Yesterday, PSC members who spoke to The Standard insisted they could not be punished over a collective decision by Parliament.

Changorok said: “That was a universal decision of Parliament and as a PSC member I will discharge my duties in accordance to Parliament’s decisions once we are sworn in as commissioners.”

Wanga, the Homa Bay Women Representative, said Parliament is a supreme and independent organ of the State that cannot be sued.

She added that the Clerk could not receive instructions from the SRC since it is not his employer.

“This is a decision by Parliament and can she (Serem) sue Parliament? She can move to court to seek interpretation but not purport to sue Parliament. How can SRC give instructions to the Clerk who is not their employee?” Wanga added.

President Uhuru said: “I urge Parliament to engage the Salaries and Remuneration Commission in a constructive manner with a view to resolving this matter.”

Threat by CIC

But the President clarified Parliament’s action has had no consequence on other officers: “For the avoidance of doubt, all State officers in the Executive will continue to abide by the determination of SRC,” Uhuru added.

The Speaker could not be reached as he is on official tour abroad. But earlier, when informed of the threat by CIC, he had told The Standard: “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”

Nyegenye could not be reached as he is said to be with the Speaker.

Muturi is expected to return today to chair the PSC meeting after the swearing in of the commissioners.

Yesterday, Serem insisted the SRC is the only body mandated by the Constitution to set the salaries of all State officers, terming the MP’s move an exercise in futility.

 “Anybody who acts outside the law in pursuant of payment will have acted unlawfully and faces the risk of being held liable for abuse of office and aiding the misuse of public funds,” she said.

The SRC boss, however, did not specify if it would be the entire PSC or the Clerk of Senate who is PSC secretary who will be cited for breaking the law.

“There is a recourse in the law for anybody who goes against the Constitution and there are bodies mandated to act,” Ms Serem told journalists in her office yesterday.

An SRC commissioner later told The Standard that as the chief executive officer of the PSC, Mr Nyegenge is the chief accounting officer of Parliament and thus will be held responsible for illegal payments to MPs.

The Committee on Delegated Legislation chairman, William Cheptumo yesterday maintained Parliament’s decision was final and MPs will be paid the previous higher salary.