If there were a fairness test applied to the bills passed by the National Assembly the most recent, almost unanimous, decision by the Members of Parliament to enact a law that awards the Members of the National Assembly a gratuity of 3.72 million shillings each would certainly fail.
MP Millie Odhiambo Mabona, one of the few MPs that opposed to the amendment stated of it, “I will not be party to unfairness to this country. Members of parliament have refused to reduce interest rates for members of the public, but when it comes to our own things, we are quick and sneaky.”
Our Members of Parliament are amongst the highest paid in the world and last week they amended a law to allow each of them to accrue 3.72 million shillings as gratuity at the end of the term of the current parliament. The amount represents 31% of the annual salary that an MP earns. So the total cost of the MPs gratuity to the taxpayer comes close to a total of 1 billion shillings, 825.84 million shillings to be exact (3.72 million shillings multiplied by 222 members of parliament).
Gratuity/severance for Members of Parliament is nothing new. Before parliamentarians amended the law they were to receive as their gratuity, 300,000 shillings per annum on a flat rate for each of the 5 years of their term i.e. a total of 1.5 million shillings. On Thursday last week the Finance Minister, Njeru Githae, proposed an amendment that would see this amount more than doubled. The Finance Minister moved a motion to amend the National Assembly Remuneration Act by deleting the words “A severance at the rate of Kshs. 300,000.00 for every year in service” and substituting those words with “A severance allowance at the rate of thirty one per centum of the salary.”
The move to double the gratuity of Members of Parliament comes at a time when: inflation is in double digits approximately 17%, the cost of living is at an all time high, the Parliamentary Budget Office has warned of the dilemma the government is facing financing the next budget due to the country’s current budget deficit. The government is also in the midst of pay disputes with crucial civil service sector workers and is faced with intermittent strikes from doctors, nurses and teachers over salaries. Most recently the Kenya National Union of Teachers warned the government that its members will cease work on July 1st unless the government hires more teachers and starts negotiations for a 300% salary raise agreed on earlier this year. In light of these factors the decision to amend the law to double the gratuity of the members of the 10th parliament seems to me to be a case of wrong choices, priorities, and values.
The irony of the move by parliament to double the gratuity of its members is the fact that in same week the government made a decision to cap the salaries of civil servants at both national and county levels requesting that, “public servants be sensitive to the plight of the taxpayers.”