MPs will be paid more than a judge of the Court of Appeal if the parliamentary leadership manages to push the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to reinstate the plenary sitting allowance.
The 416 MPs in the two Houses of Parliament – National Assembly (349) and Senate (67) – in the 11th and 12th Parliament had been pocketing Sh5,000 in plenary sitting allowance.
However, on July 28, SRC Chairperson Lyn 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 upgraded their job group. The notice came into force on August 9.
Other than the house allowance, the monthly remuneration for the lawmakers includes Sh426,000 in basic salary and Sh134,000 in salary market adjustment. The monthly pay does not include the allowances they pocket when attending House committee meetings.
The scrapping of the plenary sitting allowance was so that the MPs’ monthly pay does not exceed that of Court of Appeal judges, who are superior in the pay grade. But this has not gone down well with the newly inaugurated MPs who are yet to start discharging their mandate.
Yesterday, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula gave the clearest indication that the abolished sitting allowance will be restored. While addressing lawmakers during their induction at a city hotel, Mr Wetang’ula assured the MPs that they have no reason to worry as he has already initiated talks with SRC.
“We live incrementally and not by reduction,” Mr Wetang’ula told the MPs just hours after a meeting with SRC. The Speaker of the National Assembly chairs the Parliamentary Service Commission, which is in charge of the welfare of MPs and parliamentary staff.
“We must have an equitable approach where MPs are clearly facilitated to do their work... Comparisons between Parliament and other departments of government have been made and distinctions drawn. I am sure that there will be no scandal,” the Speaker said.
Last month, Ms Mengich said that the decision to abolish the Sh5,000 plenary sitting allowance for MPs and Sh3,000 for MCAs will save the taxpayer Sh8.2 billion over five years.
“We looked at the pay of the state officers from an equity and fairness perspective, which is equal pay for work of equal value. It is what we used to evaluate all the jobs and determine relative job worth for all the state officers in the executive and legislature at the national and county levels,” the SRC chairperson said.
“An MP at the national and county level discharges their role through plenary sittings. If you then are paid an allowance for plenary sitting and you are still getting a full time pay it amounts to double compensation,” the SRC boss added.
But yesterday, Mr Wetang’ula said: “Our engagement with the SRC is to remind them that as they go about their constitutional mandate, they should be alive to the fact that issues that are available to members like perks that they have been enjoying in the last parliaments should not be unnecessarily or unreasonably interfered with.”
Earlier, the MPs had booed National Assembly Acting Clerk Serah Kioko after she mentioned the SRC chairperson as among those scheduled to make presentations to the MPs during the five-day induction.
The National Assembly has four sittings a week when in session – Tuesday afternoon, whole day Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. The Senate sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.
Before the plenary sitting allowance was abolished, an MP would pocket about Sh80,000 assuming that they attended all the plenary sittings in a month. On the other hand, senators would get Sh60,000 in plenary sitting allowance per month if they attended all the sessions in a month.
In the July 28 gazette notice, SRC also capped the committee sitting allowance. The committee chairperson is now entitled to Sh15,000 per sitting up to a maximum of Sh240,000 per month, vice-chairperson Sh12,000 per sitting up to a maximum of Sh192,000 per month and members Sh7,500 per sitting up to a maximum of Sh120,000 per month after tax.
Should the MPs have their way in the push for the return of the plenary sitting allowance, they will earn more than Sh1.2 million per month inclusive of mileage claims in the case of a member who does not chair a House committee, which is more than the Court of Appeal judge. The mileage claim is only enjoyed by members of the National Assembly.
In December 2021, SRC reviewed the salaries of Court of Appeal judges to Sh1,156,108 up from Sh1,122,759.
Mr Wetang’ula further faulted SRC for limiting the engine capacity of cars the MPs are required to use.
“Setting the engine capacity for MPs at no more than 3000cc is not right. You cannot constrain a member in the manner he serves his people who live hundreds of kilometres apart,” he said.