MPs abuse mileage claims into millions, says Auditor General

Report for FY 22-23 gives credence to the widely held belief the allowance has become a cash cow for lawmakers

In Summary
  • Many MPs claim weekly constituency trips without providing proof beyond the claim form that they reached their destination.
  •  Some MPs spend the entire month in Nairobi; some submit claims for local travel while they were out of the country.
Auditor General Nancy Gathungu.
Auditor General Nancy Gathungu.
Image: FILE

A new audit report has exposed questionable expenditure of millions of shillings to fuel MPs’ private vehicles without proof of traveling.

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu in her latest audit report indicates glaring gaps in the multi-million shilling mileage claims scheme that forms part of the lawmakers’ hefty perks.

The report that covers the 2022-23 financial year points to weak controls in the payment of the fuel money, exposing it to possible abuse.

According to the report, the National Assembly spent Sh4.6 billion in domestic travel and subsistence while another Sh1.2 billion was used in the Senate.

The National Assembly has 349 members while Senate has 67 members.

Cumulatively, the Parliamentary Service Commission spent Sh5.8 billion for travel and subsistence for the members of the bi-cameral legislature

Much of the Sh5.8 billion local travel budget is made up of MPs’ mileage claims for trips made to their constituencies — an allowance that has often featured fictitious mileage claims over the years.

Gathungu said often the money is paid with no proof that the lawmaker actually travelled to his or her constituency.

The auditor further said the claims form as evidence of payment is not evidence enough to guarantee payment of the millions.

“The transport payment was only supported by a claim form making it difficult to ascertain if the MPs travelled to warrant payment of these allowances,” the report indicates.

In Kenya, MPs are presumed to travel every weekend to their constituencies even though that is not always the case.

Currently, MPs are only required to file the mileage claim forms with the transport department, and submit the applications to the Parliamentary Finance Department for reimbursement. There is often nothing to show they visited their constituencies.

Some lawmakers spend even a month in Nairobi.

There have also been cases of local mileage claims when a lawmaker is out of the country.

Others are claiming the mileage allowances on a weekly basis whether Parliament is on session or on recess.

The Parliamentary Service Commission – the MPs’ employer – does not make public the details of lawmakers’ mileage claims, including how much each MP was paid during a specified reporting period.

However, there have been claims that some MPs claim as much as Sh1.5 million monthly, without any proof they traveled to their constituencies.

Gathungu’s report gives credence to the widely held belief that the mileage allowance has become a cash cow for parliamentarians.

Under the current system, an MP shall be reimbursed a claimable mileage of one return journey in a week from the National Assembly (Nairobi) to his/her constituency at the rate of Sh152.6 per kilometre.

MPs can claim a reimbursable monthly maximum of as much as Sh462,887 for distances up to 350km

For distances more than 350km, MPs are paid based on actual distance times the mileage rate of 351 Sh152.6 per kilometre.

For instance, the Mandera East MP would pocket Sh2,796,800 under the new rate. The constituency is 2,260km from Nairobi.

Their counterpart from Turkana, with a return trip of 2,260km at the rate of Sh152.6 will claim as much as Sh2,748,160 in monthly mileage claims.

Previously, the PSC has busted MPs submitting fictitious mileage claims, pocketing millions of shillings they are not entitled to.

Even more disturbing, nominated MPs, who do not represent any elective constituency, claim mileage allowances.

There have been demands for a framework to ensure actual and verifiable claims to save the taxpayer and deal with the rising wage bill.

In 2015, a group of 20 MPs, mainly from Nairobi and its environs petitioned the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to intervene and formulate alternative policies that would stop the mileage rip-off.

Despite the SRC’s efforts to rein on MPs’ pay, Kenyan legislators’ pay has remained abnormally high.

The commission chaired by Lyn Mengich is constitutionally mandated to set and review the pay of state officers, including MPs.

Apart from the mileage cash, MPs are also entitled to a car maintenance allowance of Sh356,525 every month.

This is on top of the monthly salary of Sh725,502 and hefty sitting allowances whenever lawmakers attend committee sittings.

Currently, MPs are entitled to between Sh7,500 per committee sitting capped at Sh120,000 per month.

Chairpersons of committees and their deputies, however, have enhanced allowances of Sh15,000 per sitting to Sh240,000 and Sh12,000 per sitting, respectively, to a maximum of Sh120,000 per month.

Deputy speakers in both houses take home Sh948,261 in monthly salary while the Majority and Minority leaders have Sh784,768 in salaries.

They also receive a generous medical allowance for themselves, their spouses and as many as four children younger than age 25.

The lawmakers are also entitled to superior medical cover of as much as Sh10 million for inpatient and Sh300,000 for outpatient care.

The cover also includes Sh150,000 for maternity, Sh100,000 for dental services and similar amount for optical.

MPs are already entitled to a Sh20 million mortgage with 3 per cent interest.

In addition to the lucrative allowances, MPs also enjoy a Sh5 million official car grant scheme to buy luxury cars every five-year term, a personal car loan from the government of as much as Sh7 million repayable at three per cent interest.

At one time, Kenyan legislators were ranked second in global pay.

A 2013 study by the UK-based Independent Parliamentary Standard Authority and the International Monetary Fund ranked the country’s legislators second, after Nigeria.

MPs in Ghana, Indonesia and South Africa trail their Kenyan counterparts.

Kenyan MPs were found to take home more than their counterparts in the United States, Japan and Britain.

The 416 MPs — 349 in the National Assembly and 67 in the Senate — earn 54 per cent less than their Nigerian counterparts, whose annual take-home pay is Sh16.5 million.

Only 290 are entitled to constituency mileage. Forty-seven women are elected from the counties and 12 are nominated representatives.


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