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Economy

Members of Parliament push for reversal of perks cut

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) chairperson Sarah Serem. PHOTO | FILE
Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) chairperson Sarah Serem. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has defended its decision to cap the sittings of Judicial Service Commission (JSC) members. PHOTO | FILE 

Parliament is pushing for higher foreign travel perks for legislators as MPs threaten to slash the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s (SRC) Sh922.8 million budget by half.

SRC vice-chairperson Daniel Ogutu said the salaries team was reviewing a request by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) after the House team visited their offices two weeks ago to seek a review of the night out allowances.

Travel allowances for MPs were slashed by the salaries team in December to be in line with global benchmarks and help the State curb rising recurrent expenditure.

The legislators are now threatening to cut the Sh922 million budget that the Treasury has allocated SRC for the year starting July should it fail to reverse the cut in foreign travel per-diem rates.

“The PSC came to our offices two weeks ago for consultation on this matter. We are looking into your matter of per diem,” Mr Ogutu told the Finance Planning and Trade committee chaired by Anamoi MP Benjamin Langat.

In the fiscal year ending June 2014, MPs spent Sh3 billion on both local and foreign travel, which stood at Sh632.4 million.

Travel is one of the key perks including sitting allowances that MPs draw as part of their earnings in the course of their service.

Though each of the 416 Members of the National Assembly and Senate earn a basic monthly salary of about Sh550,000, allowances push their monthly take-home to more than Sh1 million, highlighting their position as some of the best paid legislators in Africa.

The lawmakers have argued that they deserve higher salaries because their constituents expect them to provide charitable support.

Many Kenyans view MPs as symbols of a greedy political culture, seeking public office as an opportunity for personal gain at the expense of a country struggling with an unemployment rate that stands at more than 40 per cent.

Mr Ogutu defended the decision to slash the per diems saying it conducted research and compared them with allowances granted to members of Parliament in the UK, US, Canada, Finland and South Africa in coming up with new rates.

He said the MPs’ new per diem was way above what the United Nations and the World Bank offer their staff.

According to the new rates introduced by the SRC, allowances for Senators and National Assembly members travelling to Canada have been slashed from Sh101,319 ($1,053) to Sh67,546 ($702).

The new rates for travel to the US are Sh63, 312 ($658) from Sh115, 079 ($1,196) and to the United Kingdom from Sh106, 611 ($1,108) to Sh74,185 ($771).

New allowances to South Africa are Sh45,127 ($469) from Sh49,168 ($511) while MPs travelling to Turkey will get Sh90,735 ($943) from Sh98,914 ($1,028). 

Jimmy Angwenyi, who serves as a commissioner at PSC, said he would lobby MPs to slash SRC’s budget by half, saying the commission had disrespected the House and other independent commissions by slashing perks and salaries at will.

“Right now MPs can’t travel for conferences in the Unites States because the per diem was cut and therefore they have to dig deeper into their pockets to find accommodation,” he said.

“Why would SRC want almost a double budget when you are cutting our per diems in an effort to reduce the wage bill? Why would you want Sh327 million for hospitality,” he added.

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