Members of Parliament are angling for higher salaries, more allowances, bigger tea pots, a ritzy bar, five-star chefs, and new bridles in their toilets, and they could soon have all these should the Parliamentary Service Commission heed their calls.
The push for higher pay and new allowances is contained in a new proposal by the Services and Facilities Committee, and only the Salaries and Remuneration Commission stands in the way.
The committee has asked the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to start talks with the SRC on behalf the 416 MPs in the National Assembly and the Senate.
The proposals are, in part, the result of extensive benchmarking trips to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland by members of the Services and Facilities Committee. If implemented fully, they will make service in the legislative arm of government one of the most attractive in the country.
A majority of MPs who talked to the Nation on Sunday supported the committee’s proposal, saying it is “long overdue” and will allow them to serve “without straining financially”. They, however, did not wish to be identified for fear of a backlash from the public.
On July 1, 2017, the SRC, in a gazette notice, reduced the basic pay for MPs from Sh710,000 to Sh621,000 a month and removed the annual progression rate for the legislators. The commission also reduced the basic salaries of Speakers of the Senate and National Assembly from Sh1.3 million to Sh1.2 million, and slashed the pay for Deputy Speakers from Sh1.05 million to Sh924,000.
The Services and Facilities Committee, chaired by Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Ombaki, now wants these decisions overturned to, it says, enable MPs deliver on their mandate comfortably.
The committee also wants SRC to increase MPs’ mileage allowances and car grants, and introduce a house allowance. The mileage allowance is not standard and depends on the engine rating of a car and the distance covered.
MPs Shakeel Shabir (Kisumu Town East), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and Martha Wangari (Gilgil), who had a session with the committee, said members of both Houses should be entitled to house allowances on top of the mortgage facility they currently enjoy, and an MP told the Nation that, despite the mortgage being a loan that members have to pay, it is not adequate to build a house that befits his status.
Members of Parliament are entitled to a Sh20 million mortgage that is subject to an interest rate of three per cent per annum, and which must be fully paid by the end of their five-year term.
Further, the committee wants MPs to be issued with a monthly statement of their allowances, both in the chamber and in the various House committees they sit in.
FULL PER DIEMS
They also want to be given their full per diems so that they can seek their own accommodation when they travel within or outside the country. Currently, Parliament books the accommodation of MPs when they travel outside Nairobi, and a change of policy would mean that the MPs decide where and how they spend their per diems.
Previous negotiations between the PSC, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, and the SRC saw MPs get back their Sh5 million car grant and Sh5,000 plenary sitting allowance, which had been abolished by the salaries commission.
Mr Muturi has previously defended the car grant for MPs, saying it replaced the Sh120,000 car allowance they would have been paid every month.
Also, noted Mr Muturi, the grant is not paid to MPs only, but also to Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, and judges, in addition to their official cars, upon their appointment.
FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE VEHICLE
“The country has been taken on a wild goose chase and hoodwinked that it is only MPs who are given the car grant,” said Mr Mturi. “It is unfair because MPs don’t even have official cars. If anything, the CSs, PSs and judges who drive government cars do not need the grant.”
The MPs we talked to yesterday said the Sh5 million grant is not sufficient to purchase a decent four-wheel drive vehicle that will not fall apart within months given the terrain and mileage that most MPs have to cover every month.
In the 2018/19 Budget, the PSC has been allocated Sh9.2 billion for administration, planning and support services.
Part of this funding could go into modernising the cafeteria within Parliament and renovating the in-house bar.
The modernising of the MPs’ cafeteria will also include the hiring of professional chefs with qualifications to serve in five-star hotels, the purchase of new tea and coffee urns with a larger capacity, and installation of bridles in the toilets.
Mr Muturi recently accused MPs of being lazy at work, and lamented that a majority of current legislators do not understand what goes on in the House.
A good number of new MPs have not uttered a single word in the form of contributions to debates, almost a year since they were elected.