SRC digs in on move to scrap Sh1bn MPs’ sitting allowances

Lyn Mengich

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) chairperson Lyn Mengich at a press briefing in Nairobi on October 7, 2021. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) says it is prepared to fight MPs in court, should they go back to challenge Thursday's decision to scrap sitting allowances in plenary sessions, that has set it on a fresh collision course with legislators after the August 9 election.

The commission said the cuts will save taxpayers over one billion shillings annually in plenary sitting allowances earned in committees. But SRC rained committee sitting allowances.

MPs earn about Sh5,000 for every sitting and the abolishment of the allowances for plenary sessions in the National Assembly and Senate is meant to ease the pressure on the public sector wage bill is currently at Sh930.5 billion annually.

The changes that will start with lawmakers elected in the August 9 elections are however likely to open a round of clashes given that legislators have in the past successfully challenged similar decisions by the SRC.

To soften the blow, SRC increased the basic pay for the lawmakers by Sh134,000 to Sh710,000.

“Sitting allowance for plenary sessions is abolished and ceases to be payable,” SRC Chairperson Lyn Mengich said on Thursday. Committee sitting allowances for lawmakers have been capped at Sh120,000 per month while those for chairpersons and vice-chairpersons have been capped at Sh192,000 and Sh240,000 per month.

SRC has in the past seen lawmakers successfully challenge the abolishment of their sitting allowances, raising fears that members of the 13th Parliament will go to court once they are sworn into office.

The commission had in July 2017 scrapped sitting allowances for lawmakers, reduced basic pay by Sh90,000 to Sh621,250 and removed the Sh5 million car grant given to every legislator.

But the High Court quashed the changes following a petition by the lawmakers who had accused the SRC of seeking to cripple the functioning of the 12th Parliament and interference with their constitutional mandate.

Kenyan lawmakers are some of the highest paid in the world attracting public outcry in an economy grappling with a high rate of unemployment and near stagnant wages for civil servants.

SRC reviews the remuneration of State officers. The commission will review the pay of lawmakers next year before the start of the 2023-24 financial year.

But the commission will from next month set the per diems for lawmakers for foreign and local trips in what looks to reduce their monthly earnings.

Currently, the Parliamentary Service Commission sets the per diem rates for the lawmakers, offering them lucrative earnings in leading cities Singapore, London and Washington.

“Daily subsistence allowance for local and foreign travels shall be paid to State officers in the Senate and National Assembly as per the rates reviewed and set by SRC from time to time,” Ms Mengich added.

PSC pays lawmakers Sh152, 928 ($1,298) per diem a night in Singapore, followed by Sh141,128 ($1,196) on trips to the US and London at Sh130,744 ($1,108) per night.

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