MCAs car grant: Section of MPs fault SRC move
Some lawmakers have raised alarm over how fast the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) approved a proposal to award ward representatives a Sh4.5 billion car grant scheme as promised by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga two weeks ago.
MPs Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) questioned the move saying that it is a clear manifestation that SRC is no longer an independent entity as required by the Constitution.
"While I don't have any problem with MCAs getting a car grant as we do, the move by SRC to approve that proposal so fast sends signs that it's not independent,” Mr Duale said as he contributed to the report of the CDF committee chaired by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi.
But Mr Ichung’wa said that SRC’s move was questionable.
“The change of heart of SRC brings to question its independence. This is prodding by the executive. In itself it looks like an act of bribery in exchange for support of the BBI,” Mr Ichung’wah said.
The constitution provides that SRC, just like any other constitutional commission, shall work independently and without instructions or directions from any individual including the president.
The promise by the President and the ODM leader was a bait to have the MCAs approve the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The Bill is currently in all the 47 County Assemblies with Kisumu and Siaya assemblies having already approved it.
While awarding the grant, SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich said that each of the 2224 MCAs (1,450 elected and 774 nominated) will now be entitled to a Sh2 million car grant every five years.
MPs Nelson Koech (Belgut) and Caleb Kositany (Soy) noted that while they do not have an issue with MCAs getting a car grant scheme, their concern is how an independent commission can be prompted by the executive to act.
“I do not believe that it was a coincidence that the President and Hon Raila promised a car grant to MCAs and within a week SRC effects the promise. It defeats the purpose of us putting in place independent commissions,” says Mr Koech.
He says that the action is typical of how commissions in the country have been held captive by the executive.
“I am also taken aback on the priorities SRC have. Health workers have been agitating for a review of the wages but SRC has never granted them an audience. The commission has also knowingly allowed themselves to be part of a political game.”
“It is clear that the MCAs have been given car grant in order to rubber stamp the BBI. That is a fact that SRC will never run away from. It has serious ramifications on its credibility,” the Belgut MP said.
Mr Kositany said that the SRC move is illegal and should be reversed by the courts.
“Clearly SRC is no longer independent. It is acting on the whims of the executive,” Mr Kositany said, noting that parliament too has lost its independence.
“We see changes to the House leadership made without following the law,” he said.
The Kikuyu MP noted that the manipulation of SRC by the executive has the implication of pushing the country to the failure of the rule of law and paralysis.
MPs have been at loggerhead with SRC over house allowances and other benefits since 2013 when it drastically altered their remuneration regime.
In 2019 SRC successfully challenged the decision by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), the MPs’ employer, to award each of the 416 members in the two Houses, a monthly house allowance of Sh250,000.
The amount was backdated to October 5, 2018, the day when High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ruled that all state officers are entitled to a house or a house allowance paid for by the state.
However, last year, the court directed each of the MPs to refund Sh2.25 million that they pocketed within eight months before it was stopped.
SRC had calculated that each MP had been paid Sh2.25 million before the allowance was stopped by the court last year but the MP’s employer said in a statement that the Sh250,000 was subject to 30 per cent tax.
However, PSC has appealed against the ruling even as it noted that the MPs were paid the amount in six months at a tax rate of 30 percent.
According to Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai, were the MPs to lose the appeal mechanisms, they will be required to refund Sh1.023 million they got paid after tax.
Last year, the commission advised the president not to sign into law the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that had proposed an enhancement of the former MPs’ monthly pension.
The Bill sought to have the former MPs who served between July 1, 1984 and January 1, 2001, get an enhanced monthly pension of Sh100,000.