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Duale, Mbadi face o­ff in bid to send President Uhuru home as House resumes

POLITICS
By Alphonce Shiundu | September 27th 2015
John Mbadi address members of the press on 9/9/2015 at ODM office in Upper Hill, Nairobi. PHOTO BY EDWARD KIPLIMO/STANDARD.

The National Assembly resumes Tuesday with an impeachment Motion against President Uhuru Kenyatta being top of the agenda.

A section of MPs want President Kenyatta sent home for ignoring a court order to increase teachers’ salaries by 50-60 per cent.

Ahead of the political battle in the House, Jubilee and CORD leaders are fighting to gain favour with the 288,000 striking teachers, who are not only a sizeable voting bloc, but also whose opinions matter, more so in rural areas where they hold influence.

Majority Leader of the National Assembly Aden Duale (Garissa Township) has vowed to file a vote of confidence in the President to counter the proposed impeachment Motion that ODM’s national chairman John Mbadi (Suba) will be submitting before the 349 lawmakers.

Mr Mbadi confirmed to The Standard on Sunday that he had already handed the wording of the Motion to the clerk’s office for the legalese to be checked and for Speaker Justin Muturi’s approval.

It has also emerged that there were plans by the Opposition to call a parliamentary group meeting on the President’s impeachment bid.

The meeting was scheduled for Tuesday morning but no formal communication had been made to MPs by the time of filing this story.

But it is the issue of addressing the source of money for the striking teachers which is likely to divide the Opposition.

While Mbadi, wants the Appropriations Act amended to cut the “operations and maintenance” budget across all ministries to raise Sh60 billion, ODM secretary general Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i) wants the pay of all State officers slashed by half.

Both proposals face several challenges, because Mbadi’s will inevitably be blocked at the Jubilee-dominated and Jubilee-led Budget and Appropriations Committee level.

The impeachment proposal which he will also be sponsoring will need 117 MPs for a start, and 233 MPs to sail through. ODM can only be assured of about 130 votes; sufficient for approval but 100 members shy of threshold to pass the Motion.

On the other hand, Mr Namwamba’s proposal has run into political headwinds, not just on its constitutionality, but also on the numbers front. MPs, including Mbadi and other Opposition plus even those of Jubilee, see it as “populist, diversionary and illegal.”

They say the move by the Budalang’I MP pushing for a 50-per cent pay cut for all State officers including MPs is illegal because the Constitution is clear that no State organ can review the pay of a public official to their disadvantage.

Populist gimmick?

The lawmakers said Namwamba was “playing to the gallery” because even after his proposal to trim the wage bill, “he was out of the country on a foreign trip that was not key to parliamentary work.”

The chairman of the Senate’s Public Accounts and Investments Committee, Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Mbadi (Suba) who sits in the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee; the vice chairman of the National Assembly’s Public Investment Committee Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), and Mithika Linturi (Igembe South) all dismissed the Motion as a “populist political gimmick”.

The lawmakers were united in their view that if Namwamba was serious about the pay, he ought to have got in touch with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), which has the constitutional mandate as per article 230(4)(a) to “set and regularly review” the pay packages of all State officers.

“You want to tell me that this country cannot afford to pay Sh17 billion? Let us not get involved in sideshows and this diversionary agenda which will not go anywhere.

If you ask me, where is Namwamba? After he tabled the Motion, he went to New York for the United Nations General Assembly whereas we know there are only a few seats set aside for the Kenyan delegation.

It is these kinds of bloated delegations that we have to deal with first in order to cut spending,” Dr Khalwale told said. Article 122(3) of the Constitution prohibits MPs from voting on any issues touching on their pay.

“A member shall not vote on any question in which the member has a pecuniary interest,” reads the article. The Constitution also prohibits anyone, including the SRC, from cutting the pay of the President, his deputy, judges and commissioners of independent commissions.

Khalwale said it was “a diversion” for the Executive to rope in all the other State officers in the failure of the Government to pay teachers their court-awarded pay increase “so that the blame is shared among all leaders”.

For their part, Mr Linturi and Mr Ichungwa said Namwamba was just “playing to the gallery”.

“It is a populist agenda. He should have spoken to the SRC. It seems he just wants to redeem himself from the debacle of the Public Accounts Committee. Kenyans are intelligent people, Ababu should not play around with their minds,” said Igembe South MP.

Linturi said Namwamba’s “populist antics” were “unfair” to the rest of the lawmakers. “He knows very well Parliament has no power to set salaries for State officers. If he was serious, he should have gone around collecting signatures from MPs and then send the view to the SRC. This is hypocritical,” said Mbadi.

Ichung’wa too noted that Kenyans will be mistaken to trust Namwamba’s word that a politician can take a pay cut.

“Kenyans should not trust any politician on any matter to do with money, especially when it touches on their salaries,” he said.

Imbalanced and inequitable Namwamba has moved a Motion to cut by 50 per cent the salaries of the President, the Deputy President, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Members of the National Assembly, Senators, Judges, Directors of Parastatals, Chief Executive Officers, Governors and their deputies, the Speakers of both Houses, the Members of County Assemblies and top officials in the public service.

“The ultimate aim of my Motion is to trigger a comprehensive review and harmonisation of Kenya’s grotesquely imbalanced and inequitable public wage structure, which is burdensome and defined by morally reprehensible disparities between top earners and those condemned to scavenge at the bottom of the pyramid. Populist or not, this is a just, moral, noble and timely mission,” said Namwamba in an email statement issued from New York.

He also wants all sitting allowances abolished; mileage, travelling and all other claims reviewed downwards, plus he also wants a seven- member team of senators, MPs, SRC and the Treasury officials to review the public wage structure.

He added: “If indeed as leaders we are genuinely concerned about the plight of teachers, uniformed officers, medical personnel and thousands of other poorly remunerated public servants; if we sure are serious about trimming the burgeoning public wage bill that is constricting development spending and service delivery; if we truly care for the long-suffering ordinary Kenyans; if indeed we are more than merely masters of rhetoric in pursuit of some cheap political bonga points, then let us do something about all these! I have put something on the table. If you have anything better or further, bring it forth!”

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