More trouble for Kenyan MPs

December 11, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 11 – Public pressure continues to mount on Members of Parliament to pay taxes, with yet another suit due to be filed against the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

A group of activists was due before the High Court on Thursday seeking to restrain the PSC from paying allowances to Members of Parliament (MPs) pending hearing and determination of their case.

Led by Okoiti Omtatah, the 17 activists claim that the PSC irregularly pays Sh5,000 as sitting allowance to MPs, under section 5 of the National Assembly Remuneration Act which they claimed was invalid.

“I beseech the court to grant conservatory orders to ensure that this petition is not rendered nugatory,” Mr Omtatah said in an affidavit.

Through lawyer Kibe Mungai, they claim that there is no constitutional basis for MPs to be paid the allowances and have accused the PSC of circumventing recommendations made by a commission chaired by retired Judge Majid Cockar on the review of terms and conditions of service for MPs.

They also want the court to order the PSC to compute the total allowance paid to legislators who served in the 9th Parliament and furnish a copy of the same within 60 days.

The activists are also up in arms against payment of a ‘winding up allowance’ of Sh300, 000 and Sh3.3 million paid as ‘vehicle purchase allowance’ and want the Attorney General (AG) ordered to produce an inventory of vehicles bought and tabulate allowances paid as maintenance for the vehicles.

They have also questioned the constitutionality of the Act of Parliament that established the PSC nine years ago.

Mr Omtatah and his group insist that neither MPs of the 9th or 10th Parliament are entitled to keep the motor vehicles paid for with public funds though the said allowance, at the expiry of their five-year parliamentary term.

“The MPs of the 9th Parliament should refund to the government the severance allowance of Sh300,000 per year as the said payment was illegal and in breach of the constitution,”  the court papers read in part.

Similarly, they want the court to prohibit the PSC from appointing an independent body of experts to review and make recommendations on the terms and conditions of service for MPs pending hearing and determination of the case.

“The Parliamentary Service Act does not make provisions for the establishment and operations of a truly independent body of experts to review terms of service of MPs. Moreover, the constitutions and statutory provisions for it are void and in any event it is immoral to permit the PSC to continue hoodwinking Kenyans that the solution to exorbitant remuneration and taxes can ever come from the PSC,” the activists argued in their complaint.

They said that the legislators awarded themselves allowances in excess of Sh600, 000 per month hence abusing their legislative power in a manner that is discriminative and a breach to the principles of natural justice through conferring undue advantage to MPs over other Kenyans.

This case comes in the wake of unrelenting pressure on the MPs to pay tax like all other Kenyans. Already an aggrieved Public Relations practitioner has filed a case seeking to compel Kenya Revenue Authority to exempt him from paying taxes and force MPs to pay.

Speaker Kenneth Marende said a committee would be established to look into the modalities of tax remittance for the honourable members.


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