MPs are now blaming Kenyans for their frequent schemes to increase their salaries and allowances.
The legislators, in particular, blame what they call the culture of handouts for their insatiable appetite for money.
Several legislators that People Daily spoke to said their salaries are stretched to the limit because of contributions and handouts to constituents.
They accused the electorate of assuming that MPs have access to an endless supply of money.
The MPs spoke even as the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) defended them against accusations of greed, saying the claims were far-fetched.
PSC also accused the Salaries and Remuneration Commission of applying double standards in the discharge of its mandate. (See separate story).
Suba MP Millie Odhiambo said MPs give a lot of their earnings to their constituents. She said that last week, she contributed money to 23 funerals in her constituency.
“I spend at least Sh200,000 a week on funerals because my constituents are poor. There is no system to support them. I also have to deal with churches and education bursaries. When I receive my salary, I pay a mortgage of Sh300,000 and the rest goes to my constituents,” she said.
Makueni MP Dan Maanzo said some legislators were “extremely poor” and are housed by relatives in Nairobi because they cannot afford to rent a home.
Maanzo, who is in his second term, blamed culture and poverty for the predicament MPs find themselves in. He says the African culture requires those in privileged positions to help those in need.
He said he recently had to cater for the expenses of bringing the body of a constituent who died in the Seychelles home.
“I also had to pay for postmortem for a man who was killed in my constituency,” he added. Maanzo said harambee contributions also deplete their earnings
“MPs are expected to contribute huge amounts and those who fail to do so are voted out,” he said. MPs, he said, are perpetually in debt.
“I have seen payslips of many members which read less than Sh10,000. In fact, some MPs use public means when their vehicles break down,” Maanzo says.
Butere MP Tindi Mwale said he sometimes spends Sh700,000 on a weekend in his constituency.
“My main challenge is the many funerals. I contribute an average of Sh30,000 for each burial and this is based on needs. In some I spend even more,” Mwale said.
Mvita’s Abdulswamad Nassir said he gets an average of 16 calls everyday from people requesting for money to pay medical bills.
Nassir said Kenyans should not condemn MPs for their desire for higher pay but instead fight for the improvement of healthcare and other social services.
“Some constituents demand that we build roads and attempts to explain to them that that is a county function is regarded as an excuse,” Nassir said.
On her twitter handle, Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris wrote: “We represent citizens who look up to leaders for their personal expenses, from rent, medical, funerals, school fees, food. Leaders in other countries are not expected to settle constituents’ personal bills. When we move from dependency to independence we can reduce wages.”
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo was bashed when he tweeted that he had become poorer since he joined Parliament.
Former MPs we talked to agreed that the attitude of handouts and favours was to blame to MPs’ predicament.
Two former lawmakers whose served in the 10th Parliament said contrary to the notion that MPs increase their salaries and allowances for personal gain, pressure from the electorate pushes them to do so.
“Pressure is too much on the ground that one has to go out of their way to make an extra coin to meet demands of the people. If you fail to do so, you might as well bid to your seat goodbye,” said a former MP from Central Kenya who did not want to be identified.
Political analyst Herman Manyora says the culture of handouts will not end unless the social problems in society are addressed.
“We need to think about how to end this issue of harambees. Leaders will not stop asking for pay increments if the electorate is asking for handouts,” he said.
He adds: “But why do people do harambees? It is because our health and education systems have collapsed.”