• The SRC says it will move to court to challenge the Sh250,000 monthly house pay for MPs
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission yesterday said it will move to court to challenge MPs' Sh250,000 monthly house allowance, setting the stage for a legal battle with Parliament.
The agency said the Parliamentary Service Commission, the lawmakers' employer, has no legal mandate to vary MPs benefits without its rubber-stamp.
SRC said it will sue so all payments that do not have its approval are stopped. It said it is the only body mandated by the Constitution to set and review the benefits of all state officers.
The salaries agency said it will seek the setting aside of the new house allowance for MPs and ask for the recovery of the money already paid out to the 416 lawmakers.
SRC, however, said surcharging the MPs for the "illegal pay" would not be possible unless there was a court order to that effect.
"The commission will take legal action to stop any payment that has not been set or advised by SRC and recover such payments," commission chairperson Lyn Mengich said.
Last month, PSC paid Sh2.25 million to each of the 416 lawmakers over and above their monthly pay for April. The money arose from their backdated benefits for the contentious house allowance.
This means taxpayers will cough Sh1.2 billion annually to meet the lawmakers' house allowances despite them enjoying a subsidised mortgage scheme of Sh20 million.
Mengich spoke at a press at the commission's offices in Nairobi. she was with other commissioners. She said any payments without SRC approval was "illegal and cannot stand."
"Such payments have far-reaching ramifications on the fiscal suitability of the public wage bill and go against the principles of fairness and equity," Mengich said.
She said the MPs benefits, including the house allowance, was included in their gross pay.
“There is no state officer who enjoys house allowance. The MPs already enjoy house allowances as part of the gross pay," Mengich said.
She dismissed reports that some state officers, among them Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, and governors enjoy house allowance.
"There are a few state officers entitled to house benefits for state functions. The governors are entitled to a housing benefit that is an official residence and not a housing allowance.'
MPs currently get Sh710,000 in gross pay after the court declared as illegal a gazette notice by SRC which had lowered their pay to Sh625,000.
SRC's decision to move to court is likely to set the stage for a bruising battle with MPs who are already adamant that they qualify for the benefit.
Signaling the National Assembly's resolve to hold onto the benefit, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi defended the house allowances saying MPs deserve it.
Muturi said the perks were well guided by Justice Chacha Mwita's ruling on October 5, last year. Mwita said state officers qualify for the benefit.
"The notion that MPs are not concerned about Kenya's wage bill is fallacious. Kenyans must not allow the SRC to be selective and discriminatory in its determination. A housing benefit is extended to all public servants and state officers alike," Muturi wrote in a tweet on May 9.
Edited by P. Obuya