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December 14, 2018

MPs plot to overrule Uhuru on pay perks

President Kenyatta addresses participants during the KCB Foundation 2jiajiri Programme at Kasarani yesterday. /PSCU
President Kenyatta addresses participants during the KCB Foundation 2jiajiri Programme at Kasarani yesterday. /PSCU

Members of the National Assembly, some of the world's highest-paid legislators, are plotting to gang up against President Uhuru Kenya and get their increased perks and allowances.

The servant-leaders can muster a two-thirds majority to override his veto, or memorandum of objections. They say they can even muster a three-quarters super-majority to pass the Bill yet again if necessary.

Yesterday they delayed passage of Parliamentary Service Bill, 2018 that would expand benefits,a day after Uhuru said he will not sign it. The Bill was supposed to have been passed by yesterday before the MPs' long Christmas recess.

Read: ‘Greedy’ MPs defend high perks push, blame media

However, it was not listed as business to be transacted by the House yesterday.

When they finally get their way and pass the controversial Bill, MPs will award themselves enhanced travel allowances, another official vehicle, house allowance and superior medical cover for their wives and extended families.

Furthermore, the requirement for a two-thirds majority to overturn a presidential objection memorandum is expected to give MPs an easy ride in their quest for more privileges.

In the face of public backlash and rebuke from Uhuru, they are determined to defeat his memorandum. Opposition leader Raila Odinga also has objected to the bloated benefits.

The lawmakers yesterday pledged to muster a super-majority to pass the bill a second time, should the head of state reject it.

If passed for the second time with a three-quarters vote, the Bill will automatically become law.

“We shall pass this Bill whether the President likes it or not. MPs have been reduced to beggars without sufficient facilitation,” Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati said.

He added, “MPs must be empowered with proper facilitation from the [Salaries and Remuneration] Commission. The Bill is a good thing for MPs because they will no longer be seeking handouts from State House," he said.

MPs want their medical cover extended to more than one wife.

The current scheme provides for Sh10 million inpatient cover per family, Sh300,000 for outpatients, Sh150,000 for maternity plus Sh75,000 for dental care.

The cover caters for the MP, one spouse and four children under age 25. But that's not enough for the servant leaders.

However, National Assembly Deputy Majority leader Jimmy Angwenyi, a member of the PSC, told the Star the Bill was good for Parliament.

“The Bill seeks to ensure that MPs are well facilitated efficiently and effectively perform their duties,” the Kitutu Chache North MP said.

On Tuesday he told the House, “We forgive Uhuru and Baba [Raila] because they were misguided on this Bill. The Constitution is clear to ensure members are facilitated to effectively serve Kenyans.”

Read: I won't sign Bill increasing pay for MPs, Uhuru declares

The Star has established that the MPs want to subjugate the Salaries and Remuneration Commission by whittling down its powers to advisory only, paving the way for the Parliamentary Service Commission to introduce more privileges for lawmakers.

De-linking themselves from the SRC means the PSC chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi can give MPs other allowances and perks at will, without seeking authority from the salaries agency.

Already MPs wants the PSC to set aside a Sh300 million constituency monitoring kitty for them to oversight national development projects in the constituencies.

Senators have a Sh2 billion kitty to monitor and oversee counties.

“There should be proper regulations and facilitation by the PSC for us to do our oversight role,” National Assembly Minority Deputy Whip Chris Wamalwa said.

The Kiminini MP, while insisting that the Bill does not seek to diminish the SRC, said the PSC should have the mandate to manage and compensate MPs accordingly without interference.

“Public participation is provided for in the Constitution and therefore MPs must be facilitated to effective do public participation,” he told the Star.

Analysts have warned that the push for a public participation kitty was a ploy by legislators to award themselves more hefty perks.

MPs are already entitled to mileage reimbursements whenever they travel to their constituencies, depending on the distance.

They are also the patrons of the National Government Constituency Development Fund through which every constituency is allocated at least Sh100 million annually.

The Star has also established that MPs currently locked out of the mileage reimbursements by the SRC could start pocketing the money like their colleagues, with the PSC having the powers to approve that.

MPs from the Nairobi metropolitan area — Kiambu, Nairobi, Kiambu and Kajiado counties — are not entitled to mileage allowances.

Previously the PSC has busted MPs submitting fictitious mileage claim, thus pocketing millions of shillings they are not entitled to. Auditor General Edward Ouko warned that travel allowances were being abused.

Even more disturbing, nominated MPs, who do not represent any elective constituency, claim mileage allowances. They could also end up pocketing the money as MPs push for 'rationalisation' of mileage allowances.

“No MP is more equal than another. MPs from the Nairobi metropolitan must be paid mileage allowances. That will end the culture of looking for handouts,” MP Simba Arati from Nairobi county said.

On November 27, the controversial Bill sailed through the Second Reading — a crucial stage where MPs unanimously backed it — paving the way for its subsequent passage and assent.

It was expected the Bill would be tabled in the House yesterday for its Third Reading — in which the House plenary would pass the proposed amendments and vote — but the House Business Committee did not slot it in the order paper.

This means that the Third Reading will take place when MPs resume business after a two-month-long recess.

The House adjourned yesterday until February 11, 2019.

Read: Muturi suspends House committee sittings as MPs go on recess

After the National Assembly passes the bill, it will be forwarded to the Senate for concurrence before it is sent to the President for assent.

However, MPs have warned that should senators reject it, then they will lock them out of the PSC.

While ironically the same House last week failed to take a vote on the Gender Bill on the two-thirds gender rule for lack of quorum, MPs are likely to troop to the House in February to easily pass the perks Bill.

On Tuesday, the MPs on the House floor accused the media of misleading the public through propaganda.

Leader of Majority Aden Duale, his Minority counterpart John Mbadi and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed clarified that the Bill does not call for increase of MPs' salaries, only benefits.

Duale told the media to read and understand the Bill before perpetuating “the greed narrative”. “What we read in the media nowadays is propaganda. They are no longer professional,” Mbadi said.

Junet said,“The media has gone to the extent of misleading both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga on the bill. Today I explained to Raila what the Bill entails and he could not believe it."

See also: Transparency International bashes MPs over plans to raise perks

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