SRC SAID NO TO EXTRA PERKS

Lawmakers to battle in court for house perk

They argue the mandate of paying MPs lies with their employer, the Parliamentary Service Commission

In Summary

• Justice John Mativo ordered PSC to stop paying allowances until application by SRC is heard and determined on June 12.

• Sources said they proposed to PSC to build houses for MPs, which they would return at the end of their terms. 

Members of parliament and senate at the parliament gallery during the opening of the 11th parliament.
Members of parliament and senate at the parliament gallery during the opening of the 11th parliament.
Image: MONICAH MWANGI

Lawmakers plan to sue the Salaries and Remuneration Commission that said they are not entitled to a Sh250,000 house allowance.

Multiple sources said a four-hour meeting on Thursday ended with the parliamentarians affirming that they, like other state officers of their rank, are entitled to the benefit.

Kenyan MPs are among the most highly paid in the world.

Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Kenneth Lusaka (Senate) co-chaired the well-attended closed session.

The Parliamentary Service Commission decided they are entitled to a backdated house allowance. The SRC disagreed.

Many MPs asked why rights activist Okiya Omtatah had sued individual members yet the decision on perks was made by the Parliamentary Service Commission, an independent entity.

Omtatah has not served the legislators with the suit as the court directed last month.

“We will mount a legal battle to secure the allowance. We are going to engage lawyers to represent MPs. We are not letting go of the allowance,” an MP confided to the Star.

At the meeting, speaker Muturi and Senate clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye- who is also the PSC secretary, explained to members how the PSC arrived at the house allowance award. They said it was perfectly legal.

Nyegenye also advised members on the status of the lawsuits against the allowance filed by both the SRC and activist Omtatah.

We will mount a legal battle to secure the allowance. We are going to engage lawyers to represent MPs. We are not letting go of the allowance.
An MP
 

Angered that they are being drawn into a ‘useless debate on perks’, the lawmakers unanimously agreed to stay away from the media, saying publicity would hurt their cause.

“Our concern is that the decision to pay and the implementation of the same rests with PSC. What annoys MPs is that SRC wants to draw them into a matter concerning a decision they are not a party to,” another lawmaker said.

"As MPs, we even said we have no business being in court over that matter. The PSC and SRC can fight over whose mandate it is to pay perks or not. We don’t want to be involved in their battle.”

The SRC sued the PSC to recover Sh700 million already paid. It took Thursday's meeting to explain the steps they are taking to defend themselves.

Justice John Mativo ordered the PSC to stop paying the allowances until the application by the salaries team is heard and determined on June 12.

However, MPs say the commission is usurping a mandate that legally belongs to the PSC.

They argue that Section 31 of the Employment Act stipulates that it is the duty of an employer to give an employee their dues.

Another basis is Article 127 which vests in the SC, as its primary role, the function of providing facilities and catering for the welfare of Parliament.

A member further told the Star that they proposed that the PSC should consider a budgetary allocation for building houses for members.

The feeling is that it would be cheaper to construct the houses, which outgoing members would hand over at the expiry of their term.

PSC members including Speaker Muturi and clerks of both Houses are parties in the case.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission has challenged the payment of the allowance to each MP and has drawn the National Treasury, the Controller of Budget and AG into the case.

The respondents are National Assembly Speaker Justin, MPs Naomi Shaban (Taveta), Adan Keynan (Eldas), Benson Momanyi (Borabu), and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi).

Others, being members of the PSC are, Senators George Khaniri (Vihiga), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), PSC commissioner Lorna Mumelo and Senate clerk Nyegenye.

The issue of house allowances for MPs has generated a ferocious public reaction, with most criticising legislators for 'being greedy in their push for better perks'.

And to confirm the fears of the public, the legislators have maintained that they will stop at nothing to secure the house allowance.

“Let the drama begin,” another member said, adding that members are being vilified yet other state officers get the house allowance.

(Edited by R.Wamochie)