NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2 – Members of the National Assembly have begun their spirited fight against Commissioners of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), aimed at ensuring they are sent home owing to the slashed salaries they gazetted for MPs.
Through a petition tabled in Parliament by Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi on Thursday, the MPs said SRC Chairperson Sarah Serem and her team must be dismissed from duty for abusing the Constitution by failing to seek Parliament’s approval before setting the new pay.
Linturi said he had come up with a charge sheet bearing 30 counts of misconduct by the SRC including violations of the Constitution.
“Members of this Parliament are obliged to protect, uphold and defend the Constitution by not only being MPs but also being Kenyan citizens,” he argued.
“There is need to have the whole Commission removed from office and have a fresh team appointed,” he stressed.
The petition was seconded by Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo who accused the SRC team of setting a bad precedent of reducing public workers’ pay.
He said that the move by the SRC was a dishonour to Parliament and cast MPs in bad light.
“I was driving into the gym at Continental House and somebody by the name Mwangi (Boniface) was being pushed into the cells. So I stopped to ask what was happening and then somebody from the streets who looked like someone who should not even be walking up to a Member of Parliament called me a thief,” he narrated.
“I felt abused. Mr Speaker, this is a rogue Commission. It is like she is trying to kill us,” he retorted.
And in an interesting twist, Leader of the Majority Aden Duale also defended the petition saying Linturi’s actions were within the law and Kenyans must respect the 11th Parliament.
He pointed an accusing finger at Kenyans for periodically bashing the top brass of leadership saying the trend should change.
Duale also took issue with the SRC for not negotiating with Parliament before setting up the pay structures arguing that it was doing so with the Judiciary.
“On March 4 Kenyans went to the polls and elected the 349 men and women in this House. If they are thieves, it is the Kenyan people who are thieves. If they are greedy, it is the Kenyan voters who are greedy,” he said.
In the passionate debate that followed the tabling of the petition, the MPs also lauded Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary General Francis Atwoli for defending their demands.
But on Wednesday, during the Labour Day celebrations, Atwoli said he did not support the MPs and his statement had been taken out of context.
Newcomers were also not left out of the debate with Homabay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga accusing the SRC of punishing MPs ‘for being a large House’.
“We have been told of a soaring wage bill but no single institution can be humiliated and fired for this. That is a violation of human rights. For one single institution to be crucified is unfair,” she argued.
The MPs have been clamouring for a pay hike saying the Sh535,000 wage was too little. They want the SRC to take it back to Sh800,000 per month, which is what the 10th Parliament was earning.
MPs already enjoy an inpatient medical cover worth Sh10 million and an outpatient cover worth Sh300,000. This health package covers their spouse and four children below the age of 25.
The maternity package is set at Sh150,000 while their dental package stands at Sh75,000 together with the optical one also at Sh75,000.
The MPs will also get a non pensionable retirement benefit that will be calculated at 31 percent of their annual basic pay at the end of their term.
A car loan of up to Sh7 million repayable at three percent per annum within five years as well as a mortgage facility of up to Sh20 million also repayable at the same rates is also available to the MPs.
Civil societies are also set to hold a press conference on the matter on Friday, after one of their own (Boniface Mwangi) was arrested by police for heckling Atwoli over the pay matters on Wednesday.
If the petition goes through Parliament, President Uhuru Kenyatta will have no choice but to set up a tribunal to investigate the claims made against the SRC Commissioners.
He may also decide to suspend the Commissioners until the tribunal concludes its investigations. If they are suspended, they will be entitled to half their pay.
This tribunal will then take the next 30 days after its constitution, to investigate the matter. The tribunal will have a Judge of the Supreme Court, who shall act as the chairperson, two High Court judges and one other person who is qualified to assess the grounds for removal.
However there is no timeline within which the President must set up the tribunal.