Parliament plans to spend nearly Sh2 billion on luxury car grants for newly elected legislators in the 2016/17 budget, setting themselves up for further public scrutiny over their appetite for hefty perks and privileges.
The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) wants Parliament’s budget ceiling for the next financial year increased to cover the cost of the luxury cars for MPs who will be elected in the August 8, 2017 General Election.
“The ceilings were inadequate in view of expenditure trends. Further, the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) for 2016 has not factored in an adjustment needs to cover the car grants for newly elected members of the 12th Parliament. This was expected to cost Sh1.8 billion,” said the PSC secretary Jeremiah Nyegenye last week while pitching for more funding to the Liaison committee which scrutinised the BPS that was adopted by Parliament.
The additional funding requested by the PSC adds up to Sh2.7 billion, including cash requested for purchase of land for expansion of Parliament’s Karen-based training facility.
Each of the 418-member bi-cameral Parliament is entitled to a free car grant upon being elected.
The lawmakers are also entitled to a car loan of up to Sh7 million on their second car, recoverable from their pay slips every month.
Recently, the 47 county women representatives received an additional new GK-registered Chevrolet Trail Blazer vehicles for use in their counties.
The female MPs were controversially given the fuel guzzlers that were procured by the Devolution and Planning ministry under the Sh1 billion Affirmative Action and Social Development Fund when Anne Waiguru was in charge.
The fund, run by the elected county women representatives, is meant to support special interest groups. The women representatives each now has a fuel guzzler maintained by the taxpayer in addition to the cars purchased through Parliament’s budgetary allocation.
They also enjoy weekly mileage reimbursements for using their personal vehicles bought through the House car grants.
Mr Nyegenye in submissions to the Liaison committee also pleaded for an allocation of Sh1 billion for purchase and development of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training (CPST).
He said the money will be used to buy land for the Karen-based training institution.
“Once it operates optimally, the CPST shall save Parliament funds in terms of travel and accommodation of staff on training,” Mr Nyegenye, who is also the Clerk of the Senate, told the Liaison committee chaired by Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso.
The CPST, he said, is positioning itself to play the role of a premier training institution on parliamentary affairs and county assemblies nationally and regionally.
“The current premises are on a residential area and not ideal for a training facility,” said Mr Nyegenye. The Treasury and the Liaison committee allocated Parliament a budget of Sh29 billion to finance its operations and pay salaries for MPs and staff.
Mr Nyegenye defended the high development vote saying Parliament intends to create a parliamentary square and is therefore purchasing buildings around it and renovating them for use.
“Equally, there is a modern office block under construction. All these led to the high allocation to the development budget. “However, once the transition phase comes to an end, the development vote shall reduce drastically,” said Mr Nyegenye.
Parliament is building a 26-storey office block on a one-acre plot next to the MPs’ Continental House offices to accommodate those who have no offices and the growing number of staff.
MPs and Senators who did not secure offices at Parliament Buildings are given Sh50,000 monthly to rent offices within Nairobi’s Central Business District.
According to the minutes, MPs expressed concern over the development expenditure, saying it was too high and that Parliament may not have the capacity to absorb it.
“The Sh1 billion meant for land and its development for CPST was not justifiable in terms of value/benefit that is likely to accrue to Parliament from the centre,” they observed.