broke MPs

Members of Parliament have not received their sitting and mileage allowances amounting to millions of shillings.

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No allowances for MPs as cash crunch bites

Members of Parliament have not received their sitting and mileage allowances amounting to millions of shillings, pointing to a deepening financial crisis at the National Treasury.

A number of MPs who travelled abroad last month for various assignments are yet to get their allowances, while other parliamentary staff are also affected by the cash crunch, the Nation has learnt.

“It’s an extremely dire situation. From the beginning of the year, it became clear that the Treasury was struggling to pay salaries and allowances,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech told the Nation.

The Treasury has also not released money for the National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF).

Social distancing

“Projects have stalled, students don’t have bursaries and may drop out. Classrooms that are intended to create space for social distancing have been delayed, contractors who were undertaking the projects are threatening court action,” Mr Koech said.

Public Investments Committee (PIC) chairman Abdulswamad Nassir attributed the cash crunch to the end of the financial year on June 30. National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who is also the chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), declined to comment.

“Those are administrative issues. Find out from the clerks and not me,” Mr Muturi told the Nation in a text message.

Contacted, the clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Michael Sialai, denied the claims.

“It is not true. All allowances are processed and paid when due,” Mr Sialai said, adding that “pending” mileage allowances are being processed.

“The mileage claims are there and we are processing and liaising with Treasury for funding. Treasury has promised to address funding,” Mr Sialai said.

MPs are entitled to a mileage allowance calculated at the Automobiles Association (AA) rate of Sh187 per kilometre while travelling by road to their respective constituencies.

Mileage allowance was part of the contentious issue when the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) locked horns with parliament last year. Implementation of the SRC’s salary reviews was halted by the High Court in December 2017, allowing Parliament to revert to paying MPs higher salaries and perks as well as offering them the scrapped Sh5 million car grant.

The PSC allocates a Sh10,000 allowance for chairing a committee meeting. A vice-chairperson pockets Sh7,500, while an ordinary member takes home Sh5,000 for every sitting attended. The lawmakers also get Sh5,000 per house session.

Early this month, MPs threatened to paralyse presentation of this year’s budget by Treasury CS Ukur Yatani over delayed disbursement of NG-CDF cash. In March, Mr Yatani promised to release at least Sh2 billion every week until the end of the financial year 2020/2021. Most of the 290 constituencies had received an average of Sh20 million out of the Sh137 million allocated for this financial year.

Last week, Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Martin Wambora said counties risked shutting down due lack of funds. He said the outstanding Treasury releases stood at Sh102.6 billion.

Mr Yatani promised to release Sh39 billion to the counties by Friday last week, but by yesterday, CoG communications officer Yvone Ogwang told the Nation that no money had been released to counties.

The SRC last week announced a freeze on salary increments for all civil servants for two years beginning July. It said the move is informed by the difficult economic times due to the economic shocks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vowed to fight

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants has rejected the freeze and vowed to fight it. Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary-general Wilson Sossion said the government was using Covid-19 as an excuse to deny workers their rights.

On Sunday, the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions and Hospital Workers (Kudheiha) issued a 10-day strike notice over failure by the government to clear Sh7.2 billion arrears in their 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Kudheiha Secretary General Albert Njeru said the CBA was signed and registered in 2020 with a budget of Sh13.8 billion, but to date only Sh6.6 billion has been paid. Mr Yatani did not respond to calls and text messages over the issue yesterday.

But in a meeting with the Budget and Appropriations Committee yesterday, Mr Yatani said implementation of the 2020/21 budget continues to face various challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economic performance

“The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the economic performance. Further, increased demand for additional priority expenditures poses a challenge to the implementation of ongoing projects,” Mr Yatani told the committee chaired by Kieni MP Kanini Kega.

Mr Yatani said the Treasury had received requests for additional expenditure amounting to over Sh162.5 billion since approval of the 2020/21 supplementary estimates. He said the additional requests include expenditures to support post Covid-19 related intervention, pending bills, and salary shortfalls.

Out of the Sh162.5 billion requested, Treasury had approved additional expenditure totalling Sh45.5billion.

He said the additional expenditure had been included in the second supplementary estimates for the 2020/21 financial year.

While appearing before the Senate Finance and Budget Committee on Wednesday last week to explain the delayed release of funds to counties, Mr Yatani admitted that the government was facing a serious crisis due to the bad economic performance occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.