• November 20, 2019

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Greed: SRC spoils the party for MPs : The Standard


Last month, each of the 416-odd legislators got Sh2.25 million, adding up to Sh936 million backdated to October 2018. [File, Standard]

Members of Parliament could be forced to refund nearly Sh1 billion they awarded themselves as house allowance if a fresh bid to tame their greed succeeds.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has moved to court to contest the decision by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to grant each members of the National Assembly and Senate Sh250,000 house allowance despite public outcry.
The SRC’s case at the High Court could be a relief to the public who have to carry the burden of the MPs’ insatiable greed for lavish lifestyles.
The commission, through lawyer Peter Wanyama argues that the PSC’s decision to set, approve and pay housing allowance to MPs was contrary to the constitutional structure of remuneration and benefits of all state officers, and should be declared illegal.

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“PSC decision to pay MPs house allowances has resulted to loss of public funds in excess of Sh99.5 million per month and annual cost of Sh1.194 billion.
“It is an extremely illegal and unconstitutional decision which sets a dangerous precedent in management of public funds,” Wanyama said.
SRC wants the court to stop the payment of house allowance to the leaders and order the clerks of the Senate and National Assembly to recover the monies from their salaries.
Last month, each of the 416-odd legislators got Sh2.25 million, adding up to Sh936 million backdated to October last year when the PSC resolved to pay house allowancs over and above their mortgages.
This was done despite the SRC rejecting a request by PSC in March to approve house allowance for MPs to enable them have houses befitting their status in Nairobi.

SEE ALSO :Trade unions call for disbandment of the SRC

The commission claimed in court documents that on January 31, PSC sent it a memorandum requesting approval for the house allowances arguing that the decision to leave MPs out while granting the same to governors and their deputies was discriminatory.
PSC argued that Section 31 of the Employment Act requires an employer to provide an employee with reasonable housing accommodation near the place of work.
But on March 13, SRC wrote back to PSC declining the request and explained that the housing allowance to other government officials was distinct due to their nature of work.
“SRC was clear that the request was unmerited, and that they had set additional benefits to MPs in form of mortgages at affordable interest rates to buy houses as a means to address their accommodation needs,” Wanyama said.
He argued that the commission was surprised when PSC decided to go against their advice to pay MPs the hefty house allowance when it is not sustainable in the current economic challenges the country is facing.

SEE ALSO :No chance? How MPs have always whipped salaries commission

Burdening taxpayers
The lawyer stated that MPs cannot benefit from a separate payment of house allowances because their salary was consolidated to factor in other allowances and benefits paid from public coffers.
“SRC even obtained correspondence between the National Treasury and PSC where Parliament’s accounting officer was warned not to incur any expenditure without the commission’s approval but they went ahead to start the payments,” Wanyama said.
The commission maintained that MPs are State officers and cannot earn additional income without their approval, and that the PSC’s decision to pay the house allowance was illegal.
Wanyama stated that PSC does not have the powers to set salaries and allowances for MPs, and that the decision to pay the house allowances was an abuse to the public who are burdened.

SEE ALSO :Nairobi county workers to get salary hike

SRC dismissed Speaker Justin Muturi’s defence of the decision to pay house allowances, arguing that as the PSC chairman he should be aware of the law which governs setting of salaries to advice the PSC members instead of misleading the public.
“Decision of PSC to set, approve, and pay housing allowance to MPs outside the constitutional structure of remuneration and benefits of all State officers in Parliament that is set and communicated by SRC directly violates the provision on good leadership,” Wanyama said.
The commission wants the court to declare that it is the only one mandated to set and approve their remuneration.

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Salaries and Remuneration CommissionParliamentary Service CommissionMP allowancesHouse allowances

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