The President has refused to assent to the MPs proposed 2 billion shilling exit package, on grounds of its unconstitutionality, its economic implications, and probably its pure ridiculousness. The new constitution removes from Parliament the responsibility of setting salaries for state officers and vested this power in the Salaries Remuneration Commission. A body set up to meet the overwhelming demand of the public for an institution, independent of the influence of parliament, to set the salaries of State officers i.e. the President, the Cabinet, MPs etc.
Article 230 of the constitution lists as the one of the duties of the Salaries & Remuneration Commission, “to set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all State officers.” The implication of this clause in lay speak is that MPs can no longer set their own salaries this responsibility is vested in the Salaries and Remuneration.
Seriously one of the most appealing aspects of having a new constitution is the fact that the constitution prohibits Parliamentarians from arbitrarily increasing their salaries. An occurrence that happened with alarming frequency in the previous dispensation, in both the Moi and Kibaki administrations, making our parliamentarians amongst the highest paid in the world. To quote an article in the Telegraph, “In 2003 Kenyan MPs, quadrupled their pay as their first order of business after the 2002 election, and they have since tried to increase their income far above the rate of inflation on three occasions. In 2010 they voted themselves voted for themselves a 25% pay rise saying that new taxes on their income were leaving them near bankrupt.”
However ignoring both constitutionality, and rule of law generally, for the second time in six months our Members of Parliament manipulated legislation in an attempt to increase their salaries. On Thursday night Members of Parliament covertly added to the Finance Bill provisions that will give each member of the August House a bonus of the Kshs. 9.3 million at the end of their term. Total cost to the taxpayer 2 billion shillings. This action was taken against a back drop of strikes by public servants in which the government claimed severally that there was no money in budget to increase the salaries, and improve working conditions of what many Kenyans consider essential workers i.e. doctors and teachers.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission condemned the actions of Parliament as illegal and vowed to fight the action. However few other state institutions came out against the move by MPs to increase their salaries. Where was the Attorney General, in his role as “principal legal adviser” should he not have been advising the National Assembly of the illegality of its action? Where was the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution, whose role it is to oversee the implementation of the constitution? Where were Parliament’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, and Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee or should we presume that both Parliamentary Committees being comprised of Members of Parliament were caught in a conflict interest situation in which they will predictably chose their collective interest as MPs over the interest of the public?
Meanwhile there is nothing abstract about the damage that the proposed MPs exit package would have inflicted on the regular taxpayers. The money to pay the MPs would have been raised by increasing the tax burden on regular Kenyans, through taxation on mobile money transfers, banking transactions, and raising taxes on consumer goods etc. From its actions the government and Parliament, the people’s representatives, seem intent perpetuating the exact type of poverty that it is supposed to stamping out. One thing is for sure the MPs that voted for the exorbitant exit package, will be campaigning for our votes and we vote them back into government at our own financial peril because as taxpayers we will definitely be footing the bill.