by David Karani
Members of Parliament may be forced to pay back millions of shillings in house allowances if the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) succeeds in its court case filed today (Friday).
Through lawyer Peter Wanyama, the commission is seeking to stop further implementation of the allowances and the recovery of the monies so far paid to the lawmakers.
The salaries commission wants an order directing the Clerks of the Senate and National Assembly “to recover from salaries and allowances paid to Members of Parliament (MPs) any allowance paid pursuant to the illegal and unconstitutional decision of the respondents to pay MPs house allowance outside the constitutional structure of Remuneration and Benefits of all State Officers in Parliament.”
Further, the SRC wants the court to hold personally members of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and the secretary of the commission Jeremiah Nyegenye responsible for the payment of the illegal allowances to MPs.
Members of the PSC, all of whom have been listed as respondents are National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Dr Naomi Shaban, nominated senator Beth Mugo, Adan Keynan, Benson Momanyi, George Khaniri, Aisha Jumwa, Aaron Cheruiyot, Dr Lorna Mumelo, and Mr Nyegenye.
MPs are accused of disregarding clear constitutional provisions that gives the commission sole mandate of setting salaries and allowances for state and public officers.
“The decision of the Parliamentary Service Commission to set and pay MPs a house allowance is antithetical to the rule of law. In addition, it contradicts the express and clear constitutional provisions in Article 230(4) (a) that empower SRC to set and review the remuneration and benefits of all State officers. Moreover, the decision violates the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity,” the SRC states.
Moreover, SRC claims that Parliament misinterpreted the housing benefit extended to President, Deputy President, Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate, the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Governors and their deputies, and Speakers of County Assemblies.
In the suit, SRC states that there is an urgent need to freeze further payments of the “problematic and unconstitutional house allowance” from the Consolidated Fund pending the hearing and determination of the petition.
“Unless this court intervenes by issuing appropriate orders, the public stands to suffer irreparable damage that cannot be compensated by damages,” SRC stated in its pleadings.
Legislators recently awarded themselves a Sh250,000 monthly housing allowance for each of the 416 MPs which was backdated to October 2018.
Currently, MPs are well remunerated, states SRC and their remuneration comprises a consolidated salary as well as numerous benefits.
MPs are 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.
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.
They also enjoy inpatient and outpatient medical covers of Sh10 million and Sh300,000 respectively, car loan up to Sh7 million, mortgage benefit up to Sh20 million, monthly airtime of Sh15,000 and security.
At the end of their terms, they also get paid gratuity at the rate of 60 percent of the monthly gross remuneration package.