NAIROBI,Kenya, Sept 03 – The Chairman of the task force on Senators Welfare Kembi Gitura has come out in defense of senators over their demands for county offices and staff.
The Senate Deputy Speaker lamented over the manner in which the information on the Senators demands was relayed saying the legislators are acting in good faith and were only meant to improve service delivery.
“The argument that the Senate had – and that’s a valid argument which continues – is that it does not look equitable to pay a Senator the same amount of salary as you pay an MP because an MP is in charge of a constituency, the Senator has to look into issues pertaining the whole County! ” Gitura stated.
He reiterated that if a Senator had an office in the county, that office would require furniture, staff, a vehicle to allow movement in parts of the county especially the remote ones and allowances for operations in the office.
“These are things we have requested both from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and even through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and they are things we have given a lot of thought to,” the Deputy Speaker argued.
“When I see people saying that we are trying to loot from the National Government, I think that is not appreciating the work that a Senator does, it is equating us in the expanse of our constituencies(if I may call that) to members of the National Assembly.”
The demands have, however, sparked outrage from various stakeholders, including Transparency International whose Executive Director Samuel Kimeu describes as satisfying selfish interests particularly putting into consideration the country’s strained budget. He says Senators are simply looking for political relevance.
“I think what senators are basically looking for is political relevance. A lot of Kenyans do not understand what the role of Senators is, and I think a lot of Senators are also feeling that they do not have direct interaction with the voters,” Kimeu observed.
He further added that, “Many of them feel that they are forgotten or will be forgotten by the voters by the time of the next election. So they, like all the other elected officials that we have seen, are busy trying to see how they can control some money, how they can access some public resources that would help them fortify their political bases.”
Kimeu who heads the Kenyan Chapter of the corruption watchdog blamed the problems faced by the country to failure by Kenyans to implement the Constitution with fidelity. He said the demands by the Senators were not in consonance with the Constitution which outlines the role of Senators.
“Their functions are not at the county level, their functions are at the national level; they represent the counties, they should be engaging with the counties, I don’t think that they need offices to do that, they can do that from their offices in Nairobi,” Kimeu explained.
He lashed out at Parliament (Senate and National Assembly) for not conducting its oversight role fully saying it is possible for one to lose a vote but win an argument. That even if the minority was going to stand in favor of public interest, having a voice of reason was better than having none at all. He challenged the Members of Parliament that notwithstanding their political inclination, they should fight for the full implementation of the constitution.
Senators have however cried foul over the leaking of the report which they say was propagated by individuals who wanted to paint the Senate in bad light.
Leader of Majority Party in the National Assembly Aden Duale is quoted in one of the dailies as having threatened to bring forward a vote of no confidence against the members of the Parliamentary Service Commission if they approved the Senator’s demands.
Senators are demanding offices in the counties, over Sh2.4 million each for purchase of furniture at the commencement of each term of Parliament, staffing in the county offices and allowances to operate in their counties every month.
The Parliamentary Service Commission which is reviewing a report by the Taskforce on Senators Welfare is expected to meet tomorrow to deliberate on the matter and issue its stand.
If the report is adopted, the tax payer will have to pay Senators an extra 1.6 billion shillings annually.