MPs have and never had an easy relationship with the independent commissions. In the last administration we saw members of parliament continually butt heads with both the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution. It seems that in the new Parliament the battle between the MPs and the independent commissions’ rages on, this time between Parliamentarians and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission over the MPs Salaries.
Before the election the Salaries and Remuneration Commission revised the salaries of the new Members of the National Assembly downwards. And it seems that for most of the period since the new Members were sworn in they have been fighting to get a salaries raised to the previous levels i.e. that of some of the highest paid MPs in the world.
In making a case for increased salary on the floor of the house the MP for Kitutu Chache North Jimmy Angwenyi argued that Article 160 of the constitution prevents the SRC from reviewing salaries of the MPs downward stating, “we [MPs] are being bashed left, right and centre by everybody that we are seeking increment of our salaries. You know and everybody reasonable knows that we are not seeking an increase in our salaries. We are only saying that let us maintain our salaries at the level that was obtaining in the last Parliament until the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) brings a legal order to change our salaries and, in fact, not to change it adversely against us. This is because the Constitution forbids that. Now, Article 160 of the Constitution states clearly that you cannot adjust the salary of a State officer to his or her disadvantage.”
Actually Article 160 of the constitution is quite specific to judiciary and states specifically “the remuneration and benefits payable to, or in respect of, a judge shall not be varied to the disadvantage of that judge, and the retirement benefits of a retired judge shall not be varied to the disadvantage of the retired judge during the lifetime of that retired judge.” The Article on construction and intention does not apply to all State Officers.
Another member Kamama Asman Abongotum made the argument that Salaries can never be adjusted downward stating that better remunerated MPs would do a better job, “Salaries all over the world can never be on a downward trajectory. They are always on an upward trajectory unless you are in a failed state like Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. Since Kenya has a stable economy, let us not joke about performance. Let us pay Members of Parliament very well, so that they can deliver up to midnight, just the way we delivered in the last Parliament. Looking at the current remuneration package for Members of Parliament, one realises that the members of staff of this Assembly have better terms than parliamentarians. We want them to have those better terms but we want parliamentarians to be given their rightful share as enshrined in the Constitution and as recommended by the Akiwumi Commission and the Cocker Commission.”
Not surprisingly no MP has made the argument for accepting the SRC’s new salary scale for MPs. If the MPs got their salaries returned to the level paid the former house they would receive almost Sh1 million per month. One could quibble about the xact shilling amount that MPs should earn however the bigger question is do the MPs deserve to have a higher salary that the SRC prescribed basic salary of Sh532,500 per month?