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Raila's pension perks frozen over AU job, car row

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Treasury and former prime minister Raila Odinga are locked in a standoff over a freeze of his pension perks due to the African Union job and failure to return government cars after leaving office as PM in 2013.

The State has frozen the lavish retirement benefits due to Mr Odinga because he is already enjoying similar perks in his capacity as African Union’s special envoy for infrastructure development.

However, the move has drawn protests from Mr Odinga’s secretariat.

The perks at the centre of the dispute include medical insurance, fuel allowance, fully furnished offices as well as 17 workers - including chefs, security, accountants, secretaries and personal assistants – all hired at taxpayers’ expense.

Treasury officials say that Mr Odinga has been enjoying similar benefits since his appointment to the African Union job, which, according to the Treasury, he secured after being backed by the Kenyan government.

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However, Mr Odinga’s secretariat has accused the Treasury of seeking to once again deny him his rightful share of pension, saying that the AU perks are not financed by Kenyan taxpayers.

The dispute is likely to add a new test to the peace deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, popularly referred to as “the handshake”, of March 2018.

“We are ready to pay Mr Odinga his monthly pension and not the benefits because he is already enjoying the perks from the AU,” said a top Treasury official who sought anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

“Paying the benefits will amount to double allocation. How do we go back to the IG to seek for additional security yet the same office has offered Mr Odinga police for protection due to the AU job?”

Mr Odinga was appointed to the AU position in October last year and has two offices; one in Nairobi and the other in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The AU provides him with medical cover, staff and cars. Mr Odinga’s secretariat has asked the Treasury to give the former PM’s office the cash equivalent to the benefits, a proposal that the former has declined.

“The law does not support for cash benefit. We are mandated to provide benefits, but we may be forced to seek the Attorney-General’s advice on this demand,” said the source.

According to the law, the former PM is entitled a monthly pension equivalent to 80 percent of his last salary, a lump sum of equivalent to 12 months of his last pay, security, medical insurance and a diplomatic passport for himself and spouse.

Other perks that Mr Odinga is expected to enjoy are; one personal assistant, one secretary, one accountant, two housekeepers, two senior support staff, two gardeners, armed security and two cleaners.

The others are two saloon cars and a four-wheel drive vehicle, both of which will come with three drivers and a fuel allowance equivalent to 15 percent of the monthly pay of the serving Deputy President. The vehicles are to be replaced after every four years.

Taxpayers will cater for maintenance of the vehicles at dealerships. This is yet another bone of contention.

“We cannot give him vehicles yet government records indicate he never returned cars allocated to him while serving as PM,” said the Treasury source.

Mr Odinga is said to have retained some government vehicles allocated to him in the five years he served as PM, before losing the battle for the presidency to Mr Kenyatta in 2013. He had four Mercedes Benz cars, two Toyota Prados, a Range Rover and a Nissan saloon car.

In the early days of Mr Kenyatta’s presidency, the government had ordered Mr Odinga to return the cars, sparking protests from his supporters who deemed the order an act of humiliation.

Mr Kenyatta had in 2015 also declined to assent to a Bill that would have given Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Odinga the hefty perks, citing their participation in active politics. He, however, softened his stance after last year’s handshake.

The lavish retirement benefits will also be extended to Musalia Madavadi, who served briefly as Kenya’s vice-president in 2002.

Moody Awori, who was vice-president between 2003 and 2008, is already enjoying the benefits and taxpayers used Sh149.2 million in the six months to June for his staff and office. Mr Musyoka in March made a formal application for the pension offered to retired vice-presidents. The Treasury is still processing the application.

The Treasury has set aside Sh1.5 billion to cater for the retirement benefits for Mr Odinga and all retired vice-presidents in the current financial year. The Sh1.5 billion was allocated under the “Retired Presidents” budget line.

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