NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday vowed not to pass legislations in the House until the government brought a Supplementary Budget to pay the teachers’ salaries within one phase.,
Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said lawmakers would shoot down any legislation by the Minister for Finance which will not be seeking to resolve the pay dispute.
“The teachers are not asking for a privilege, it’s a right! This House will not pass any legislation until the Minister brings a Supplementary Budget to pay teachers,” he said.
Tempers flared as the House disrupted normal business to discuss the ongoing teachers strike.
Education Minister Sam Ongeri was put on the spot for failing to resolve the strike that had crippled learning in public schools.
He maintained that the only way forward was for the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT) to attend conciliatory committee talks with the Ministry of Labour to resolve the issue.
The MPs asked the government to pay the teachers within one phase saying its excuse of not having money was not valid.
Most MPs, including those in government, agreed that teachers deserved the pay rise. The only difference was how the pay could be implemented with the government saying it could not immediately afford the entire package.
Lands Assistant Minister Bifwoli Wakoli condemned the government for arresting teachers who were demonstrating saying they were only expressing their discontent.
He urged Education Minister Professor Sam Ongeri to negotiate with KNUT and stop the police from harassing the teachers.
Justice Minister Martha Karua challenged her colleagues to provide solutions instead of seeking for political mileage through the pay dispute.
She urged the legislators to be in the forefront in cutting unnecessary expenditure and to also consider paying taxes on their allowances.
“We refused to pay tax, as national leaders do we have the moral authority to tell the government to pay salaries? MPs are making unnecessary trips (and) we should not be too quick to blame the government when we are part of the problem, we must give direction. Parliament and Government have failed to fight corruption,” she said.
She was echoed by Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo who said “we should show responsibility. The Education Minister should bring the supplementary budget and we should agree to pay taxes and use it to pay the teachers.”
Her sentiments were met with murmurs from MPs who said they did not understand how the issue of taxation got into the teachers’ salaries.
Attempts by Public Service Minister Dalmus Otieno to explain why it was not possible to give the teachers the amount they wanted immediately were interrupted by the back bench MPs who demanded for an instant settlement.
The back benchers accused the government of mismanaging government funds through scandals that have seen the country lose billions of shillings which could have otherwise paid off the teachers.
Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale said; “The government should not pretend it cannot afford to pay teachers; it should act on perpetrators of corruption to return money lost in scandals and use it to pay the teachers.”
He said the Parliamentary Accounts Committee would table a report on the maize scandal and name all those involved in it.
Defense Minister Yusuf Hajji also insisted that action must be taken on those who will be named in the maize scandal. He however criticised MPs who threatened to shoot down a motion seeking to approve Sh7.9 billion loan meant to purchase maize for the country.
“It will be a crime against humanity if one more person dies of hunger because this House refused to approve the loan,” he said.