HOUSE OF GREED

New house allowance puts MPs' salary way above world super powers

Each of the 416 legislators received Sh2.25 million over and above their monthly pay in April, the backdated amount for the contentious allowance

In Summary

• A study by the UK-based Independent Parliamentary Standard Authority and the International Monetary Fund ranked Kenya's legislators the world's second most highly paid, after Nigeria.

• National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has defended the new allowances, saying lawmakers, just like other state officers, are entitled to such benefits.

MPs during the opening of refurbished Parliamentary chambers on August 7 last year
OUT OF ORDER: MPs during the opening of refurbished Parliamentary chambers on August 7 last year
Image: FILE

Despite being ranked as one the most pampered and pandered to in the region (and the world), MPs have again brazenly awarded themselves hefty perks that outrage Kenyans.

They have come to call their servant leaders MPigs.

They cloak themselves in October 2018 judgement by Justice Chacha Mwita who ruled that deputy governors like other state officers are entitled to a house allowance. Therefore, MPs naturally backdated their perks for April pay on the strength of the order they said classifies them as state officers.

 

Each of the 416 servant leaders received Sh2.25 million over and above their monthly pay in April,  the backdated amount for the contentious allowance.

For both the Senate and the National Assembly, taxpayers will now be shouldering an extra burden of  Sh104 million every month to house the legislators, who already have a superior and subsidised mortgage scheme.

MPs are already entitled to Sh20 million mortgage with 3 per cent interest. Compared to their counterparts in the region and globally, Kenyan MPs top the list of the highest paid lawmakers, surpassing their counterparts in most of the developed countries.

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 selfless 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 Senators — earn 54 per cent less than their Nigerian counterparts, whose annual take-home pay is Sh16.5 million.

Currently, MPs take home Sh710, 000 as basic salary and a number of allowances, meaning each member get a minimum of Sh1,378, 000. The allowances include mileage, sitting, responsibility perks.

 

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 an all-time low interest of three per cent interest.

Kenyan lawmakers are also entitled to a weekly mileage allowance of Sh109 per kilometre for as many as 750 kilometres per week and monthly car maintenance allowance of Sh356,525.

But that's not enough remuneration. They are further eligible for a state-backed mortgage of up to Sh20 million, payable at three per cent interest.

They also receive a generous medical allowance for themselves, their spouses and as many as four children under  25 years.

Other allowances include airtime, group life and personal accident cover, travel and notably, allowances for attending Parliament and sitting in committees.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission, an institution mandated to set salaries and benefits for all state officers, had capped committee sessions at 16 per month. This meant a lawmaker could only draw a maximum sitting allowance of Sh80,000. This was, however, swiftly overturned and lawmakers can now have as many sessions as they deem necessary to serve the people.

If one is lucky enough to chair a House committee, so much the better for their pockets. Committee chairs earn Sh10,000 for every session, while their deputies are entitled to Sh8,000.

All the legislators get 31 per cent of their basic pay for every year served as severance pay at the end of their five-year term.

The recent move to apportion themselves a Sh250,000 monthly house allowance, despite opposition from the SRC, has infuriated the public whose needs they are supposed to put before their own.

Lobby groups are expected to stage demonstrations to protest against the MP’s insatiable appetite for higher pay, despite the ever-ballooning public wage bill.

Five Mombasa based human rights defenders — Haki Africa, Human Rights Agenda, Institute for Land Governance and Human Rights, Sisters for Justice, the Institute of Human Rights and Empowerment — have threatened to lead Kenyans to the streets until the decision to have MPs earn the Sh250,000 is rescinded.

The lobby groups demanded that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions investigate and arrest those who have allowed the MPs to award themselves the allowance.



“They should face the full wrath of the law,” Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid said.

However, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has defended the new allowances, saying lawmakers, just like other state officers, are entitled to such benefits.

“The recent PSC determination to provide a housing benefit to MPs was well guided by Justice Chacha Mwita's ruling on 5th Oct, 2018, that State Officers qualify for this benefit. It is a matter of fact that MPs are State Officers; thus it would be unfair to be prejudiced against them,” Muturi said.

“The notion that MPs are not concerned about Kenya's wage bill is fallacious. Kenyans must not allow the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to be selective and discriminatory in its determination. A housing benefit is extended to all Public Servants and State Officers alike.”

But Suba Churchill, the presiding convener of the Civil Society Reference Group, faulted Muturi for completely misinterpreting their roles as MPs.

“It is unfortunate that we have elected leaders comparing themselves with officers from the civil service. Civil servants in their nature of work tender crucial services and members of the public should know where they are based,” Churchill said.

He added that allocating themselves hefty allowances is a sure indication that MPs have lost touch with struggling mwananchi.

“It is a manifestation of complete lack of sensitivity for the predicament of Kenyans, coming when Kenyan workers marked an important Workers’ Day without a shilling gain,” he said.

SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich has disowned the new perks, saying MPs irregularly awarded themselves the Sh250,000 monthly house allowance.

"The SRC has noted the media reports about the payment of house allowance for Members of Parliament by the Parliamentary Service Commission. Article 260 of the Constitution categorises Members of Parliament as state officers and as such, payment of any remuneration and benefits, which have not been set or advised by the SRC, is in violation of the Constitution," Mengich said in a statement.

But according to Muturi, the Mengich-led SRC has vetoed every benefit the lawmakers have received.

During his State of the Nation address in 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta said MPs should take pay cuts and put the people first.

"I know the silent fear of every politician is ending their career broke and destitute but we must not get rich as politicians at the expense of Kenyans," the President said.