The cost of naming more women MPs to meet gender rule


What you need to know:

  • 80 extra nomination seats will be required at additional wage bill of Sh3bn by August.

Kenyan taxpayers are staring at a Sh3.02 billion additional wage bill on nominated women legislators as the constitutional deadline to meet gender requirements approaches in August.

Voters did not elect enough women to make up at least a third of Parliament — National Assembly and Senate — and thus may be forced to foot the cost of 80 extra seats to meet the gender threshold set in the Constitution.

At the National Assembly, there are 16 elected female members, five nominated and 47 women representatives each representing a county.

Not a woman was elected to the Senate, forcing political parties to nominate 18.

This brings the total number of female lawmakers in Kenya to 86 MPs, or a fifth of the total 418 members.

The Constitution demands that not more than two-thirds of members of any elected or nominated body may be of the same gender, meaning special seats have to be created to meet the quota given that the ratio was not met at the ballot.

“Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender,” reads Article 27(8).

The Supreme Court had set August 2015 as the last date to achieve the gender rule, but Kenyan lawmakers voted to extend by a year the date to enact a fresh law to enforce this constitutional requirement.

A fresh pay deal brokered by Deputy President William Ruto in June 2013 set MPs’ monthly pay at Sh532,500; taxable at the rate of 30 per cent, but opened the door for unlimited allowances.

The total take-home for Kenyan MPs rises to Sh1.1 million per month which includes a string of stipends — mileage, sitting, responsibility and pension — ranking them among the well-paid lawmakers in the world.

The additional female MPs will also be entitled to Sh5 million grants for cars and cheap mortgages of up to Sh20 million priced at three per cent.

The former Law Society of Kenya chairman Eric Mutua warned that if by August MPs will not have passed the gender law, any Kenyan can move to court seeking a declaration that Parliament is not properly constituted.

The danger

“Anyone can run to the High Court and file a constitutional suit. The danger is that a decision may be made declaring that Parliament is unconstitutionally constituted,” said Mr Mutua.

“There is no enthusiasm to enforce this gender requirement,” he said.

The National Gender and Equality Commission faulted lawmakers for pussyfooting on enacting a law to promote representation of women in Parliament.

“The MPs are not serious. The gender rule law has been pending before the House since May 2015,” said Winfred Lichuma, the chair of the commission.

“We are staring at a constitutional crisis if we don’t have a law on gender representation,” she said in an interview with Business Daily.

The additional burden of women MPs comes at a time Kenyan taxpayers are spending Sh1.6 billion annually on nominated women county assembly representatives. There are 680 nominated female ward representatives after Kenyans elected a paltry 84 women as members of county assemblies.

In total, Kenya has 1,450 wards, and the Constitution expressly provides that county assemblies must nominate extra women to meet the gender requirement.

The gender commission boss said she favours the proportionate representation system based on political parties nominating women until the gender balance is reached. “Once we give women leverage, they will be able to go for elective posts,” she said.

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