Barely a month after Members of Parliament were stopped by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) from drawing house allowances, they have now awarded themselves a night allowance of Ksh.18,200 four times a week.
The move is seen as an attempt to circumvent the objection of the SRC to their house allowances, a move the speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi insists is all justified.
Citizen TV understands that MPs have been silently pocketing at least Ksh.18,200 each, four times a week, for each night spent in the city, attending parliamentary sittings. In total each lawmaker has been drawing Ksh.72,000 every week, or Ksh.291,200 every month.
The night allowance was endorsed by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) chaired by Speaker Muturi after the High Court stopped payment of house allowances to MPs at the tail end of May, following an objection by SRC and public interest litigant Okiya Omtata.
At that time, each of the MPs had pocketed at least Ksh.1.4 million in house allowances, backdated to October last year. PSC, as the MPs’ employer relied on a Justice Chacha Mwita verdict, on an employer’s obligation on providing an employee a house allowance or benefit.
With the August House yet accused of runaway greed, Muturi has defended the night allowances, insisting he had a duty to facilitate MPs attend house sittings after the house allowance gravy train was stopped.
The night out he says was payable subject to confirmation of an MPs’ house or committee attendance.
According to Muturi, the allowance will indeed improve house attendance, and deal with constant quorum hitches that hamper house business.
The Parliamentary Service Commission based its argument on allowances payable to MPs in other countries. For example, in Australia, MPs receive Ksh.14,500 per night while the house is in session or up to Ksh.4,400 while they are in the constituencies.
In Lesotho, MPs earn a house allowance of Ksh.84,000 per month, alongside loans to purchase duty-free vehicles and communication allowances.
In South Africa and Zambia, MPs are accommodated in parliamentary villages but receive no house allowances, while in Britain, MPs are entitled to accommodation and travel allowances to enable them commute between London and their constituencies. In the USA, lawmakers are entitled to either a house rent or hotel accommodation allowance…
But the latest allowances are likely to spark a fresh combat between parliament and SRC, with the salaries commission insisting MPs earned a consolidated pay, which includes house allowances.