In the proposed method to bridge the gender gap, it is now estimated that the 13th Parliament will cost Kenyans more than Sh20 billion every year if the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 passes, going by the projections of the Parliamentary Budget Office.
The cost of sustaining one MP is pegged at Sh30 million annually, with the cumulative basic salary and allowances estimated at Sh10.8 million. This includes basic salary, responsibility allowance, and vehicle fixed cost and sitting allowances.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, the total average cost of maintaining one constituency office per year is Sh12 million while the average total cost of mileage claims per year is approximated at Sh9.6 million.
The lawmakers are also entitled to a Sh40 million mortgage, a one-off car grant allowance of Sh5 million per member and other admin istrative costs estimated at Sh15 million per member annually.
The reality, therefore, is if MPs are increased from the current 416 to about 640, the country will have to contend with a ballooning wage bill, as the current annual Legislature’s budget is 2 per cent of the national budget, translating to Sh39 billion.
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The Bill proposes additional 70 constituencies. On average, a ward election costs Sh9 million on the lower side, whereas a constituency election costs Sh30 million, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Currently in Kenya, the National Assembly has 349 MPs, 76 (21 per cent) of whom are women, while the Senate has 68 members, including 21 (30 per cent) women.
Comparing these numbers with those in other countries makes Kenya look rich.
In Rwanda, for example, figures from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) show that the Lower House has 80 seats, with 49 elected women, representing 61 per cent, while the Upper House has 26 elective seats, 10 currently occupied by women, translating to 38 per cent.
In South Africa, the Lower House has 394 seats with 167 elected women (42 per cent), while the Upper House has 54 seats with 19 women (35 per cent).
In France, the Lower House has 577 elected seats and 225 (39 per cent) went to women, while the Upper House has 348 seats with women taking 29 per cent (102 seats).
Some leaders have faulted the proposal to increase the number of MPs to meet the gender principle at a time the economy is ailing.
“Signature collection begins to endorse a new Parliament, one of the largest per capita and most expensive in the world, with a total of 640 parliamentarians,” said Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki.
The National Assembly will now have 360 constituencies, up from the current 290, and six nominees representing women, the youth and people disability. This replaces the current 12 nomination slots for the special interests groups.
“A gender top-up of up to 180 brings the subtotal to 546 members. In the Senate: Two Senators per County × 47 counties = 94 Members. Grand total 546 + 94 = 640 Members! Shared prosperity indeed!” said Prof Kindiki.
Former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale also expressed his reservations, even as he welcomed the creation of the office of official opposition leader.
“I am saddened by the move to increase the number of MPs in Parliament. Even a big country like the US has 100 senators and 460 congressmen and women,” said Mr Duale.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said it was wanting for a country such as Kenya, which currently borrows on a monthly basis, to pay civil servants salaries to increase the number of MPs.
“It should worry us. However, we are between a rock and a hard place. I see a bigger problem. To fulfil the two-thirds gender rule, the IEBC will be required to be very strict,” said Mr Kilonzo Jnr.
However, Nyando MP Jared Okello sees no problem with increased representation, saying it would ensure better services to the people.
“When the leaders are closer to the people they are likely to be responsive to their needs,” said Mr Okello.