In what promises to be a legal battle royale and moral high ground, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) yesterday vowed to recover the Sh2 million from each of the Members of Parliament awarded as backdated house allowances.
The commission has opted for court action after the legislators arrogated themselves the mandate to illegally review, award and push through their perks — and once done what the SRC termed an “unconstitutional” act, they added insult to injury by backdating their allowances by eight months. The PSC backdated the Sh250, 000 monthly house allowance to the 415 MPs to October 5, 2018.
And if successful in court, the commission will recover Sh830 million paid to the 415 MPs of the two Houses, The National Assembly and Senate, through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
Addressing the press yesterday, commission chair Lyn Mengich termed the PSC as unconstitutional saying the payment of the house allowance to the 415 legislators amounts to double payment of benefit, which is already included by the commission in the gross pay.
She said Article 260 of the Constitution classifies MPs as State Officers and hence the setting of their remuneration and benefits is the exclusive responsibility of SRC.
“The PSC does not have constitutional authority to determine any remuneration and benefits of State officers,” said Mengich.
She said the action by the PSC to pay MPs house allowance of Sh250,000 per month, will cost taxpayers an extra Sh104 million every month, which amounts to Sh1.2 billion annually— and if they succeed to overcome the SRC bid to recover the Sh840m they have already pocketed, the legislators will extract another Sh5.2 billion from the Exchequer in five years.
Mengich, who was accompanied by fellow commissioners said the payment will not only create inequity in remuneration and benefits of State Officers, but will also lead to demands for higher house allowances by other State Officers.
But the recalcitrant MPs, who in the eyes of the public are the “Lords of impunity” have vowed not to let go their “deserved house allowances” and have instead accused the SRC of discrimination, saying other State officers get similar benefits.
“Why is the welfare of other State officers catered for but when it comes to MPs, it is always greed even when it is expressly provided for in the law?” posed Deputy Leader of Majority Ben Washiali.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi is on record defending the payment saying the MPs were within the law. “We acted on the court ruling of October 5, 2018 by Justice Chacha Mwita in the case of deputy governors, where he affirmed that all State officers are entitled to housing benefits,” said the Speaker who chairs the PSC.
“Contrary to popular belief, every benefit extended to legislators, even long before the housing one, has been determined by the SRC. Curiously, the same benefits have been extended to the Executive and the Judiciary but without any undue focus”.
Mengich, however, said the commission in Gazette Notices No 6516,6517,6518 and 6519 of 2017 set gross pay for State officers, including MPs.
The gross pay comprises basic salary and allowances, inclusive of house allowance, adding that any payment outside the gross pay is therefore unlawful.
The commission, she said, has not set any house allowance for State Officers in the Executive, county governments, Parliament, Judiciary, Constitutional Commissions and Independent offices outside the Gazette notice.
Mengich warned that the country’s wage bill for the last financial year stood at Sh733 billion which translates to 50 per cent of the total revenue for the period, which exceeds the limit stipulated in the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act.
The Act provides that the expenditure on public wage bill does not exceed 35 per cent of total revenue.