Lawmakers’ secret card in push to clip SRC wings over perks

Lyn Mengich.

Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Lyn Mengich.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Geroup

On the verge of losing the battle on the reinstatement of their plenary sitting allowances, Members of Parliament are now plotting to tame the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) in future review of their perks.

The lawmakers plan to amend the SRC Act that gives the agency the mandate to set and review salaries of state and public officers, so that it is not done without public participation, which essentially means their input.

In the plan is also a proposal that SRC should not review the salaries towards the end of the term of any parliament, but in case there is such a plan, then it must be done early and not close to elections as has been the case.

They also want to tame the Lyn Mengich-led commission by ensuring that before it reviews their salaries, it must present them for approval before being gazetted for implementation.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale termed it illegal to review MPs’ salaries without public participation as stipulated in Article 118 of the Constitution. The former majority leader also read mischief in the move by SRC to always review MPs’ salaries as they head for elections. “I’m looking at that SRC Act. It is something we must deal with. It must be amended. What SRC is doing is illegal and against labour laws. Nobody should touch your salary without your consent,” Mr Duale said.

According to Article 230(4) of the Constitution, SRC is mandated to set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all state officers and advise the national and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers.

In performing its functions, the commission ensures the total public wage bill is fiscally sustainable, public services are able to attract and retain the skills required to execute functions, and considers the need to recognise productivity and performance, and transparency and fairness.

The MPs say there is need for constitutional a provision, like that prescribed for the Judiciary and other commissions, to safeguard their terms of service so that they are predictable. They are protesting that since the 10th Parliament, SRC has been reviewing their salaries arbitrarily one month to elections when they are busy campaigning, hence have no time to fight back lest voters see them as greedy. The lawmakers at a closed session with SRC on Wednesday, during their induction, accused the commission of treating them with disdain.

The lawmakers pointed out that while other state officers such as Court of Appeal judges, Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries enjoy most perks that they demand, it has never raised any public uproar, but when they demand the same, the issue of wage bill comes in. “Right now, I have sent Sh50,000 to funerals in my constituency. How much has a Court of Appeal sent? Does he even know about those funerals? Yet we are being told that we cannot be at the same scale as the judges,” lamented Butere MP Tindi Mwale during the induction.

Their monthly remuneration includes Sh426,000 basic salary and Sh134,000 in salary market adjustment. The pay does not include the allowances they pocket when attending House committee meetings. The scrapping of the plenary sitting allowance was so that their pay does not exceed that of appeal court judges, who are superior in pay grade.

On July 28, Ms Mengich published a Gazette notice abolishing the allowance even as she introduced Sh150, 000 in house allowance, setting their monthly pay at Sh710,000 and upgrading their job group. The notice came into force on August 9.

An MP who served in the Parliamentary Service Commission in the 12th Parliament termed SRC under the leadership of Ms Mengich their enemy, adding it is worse than the previous one chaired by Sarah Serem. “This commission has been rude to MPs. This is the commission that sided with activists in court to frustrate us. We need to put our foot down so that they do not degrade us in terms of job group.”

Ms Mengich told the MPs that the plenary sitting allowance was factored in when they were arrived at the consolidated pay of Sh710,000, adding they considered all the functions discharged through plenary, committees and visiting constituents.