Just yesterday to the collective relief of the nation the President refused to assent to a Finance Bill that would have allowed the Parliamentarians to take home 9.3 million kshs each at the end of their current term.
However, if we (the public) thought that was the end of the story, it may have been a case of misplaced optimism. MPs are not taking the President’s refusal to assent to the Finance Bill lying down, and have vowed to fight for their rights (one wonders if they will be taking strike action). Nominated MP Rachel Shebesh has been quoted as stating that Members of Parliament, “are not going to be ashamed of fighting for our rights, our rights are enshrined, just like the rights of commissioners and other public officers.”
Yes MPs have rights, just as other Kenyans have rights, and these rights are enshrined in law. However, it should be noted that MP Rachel Shebesh fails to mention the exact right that is being violated by the President’s refusal to assent to a 2 billion shilling send off package for MPs. Also our MPs being some of the highest paid members of parliament in the world it’s hard identify how the denial of 2 billion gratuity violates any MPs rights, especially when that right is being exercised at the expense of 40 million other Kenyans.
Other Members of Parliament have used the amount that commissioners in independent commissions earn as justification for their send off package. Bura MP, Abdi Nuh, is quoted as stating,“MPs have been condemned for taking home Sh3 million or Sh9 million at times…how much is the chairman of the CIC and other commissioners paid in terms of gratuity and what is the basis of that calculation?”
This argument is disingenuous as the MPs could have protested the salaries of commissioners upon the establishment of the commission also how much commissioners of independent commissions earn is hardly justification for a 2 billion shilling gratuity package for MPs. Two wrongs do not make a right if MPs have a problem with the salaries of commissioners this should be raised with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, whose duty it is to review and set salaries of all state officers.
In fighting the President’s refusal to assent to the Finance Bill Parliament has two constitutional options: to amend the Bill in light of the President’s reservations, or to pass the Bill a second time without any amendments. If Parliament amends the Bill to accommodate the President’s reservations, the Speaker shall resubmit it to the President for assent. However if Parliament chooses to ignore the President’s reservations and chooses to pass the Bill without amendments the decision will have to be supported by the votes of at least two-thirds of members of the National Assembly i.e. 148 MPs.
Despite, the existence of these constitutional options, MPs seem to be taking a more offbeat if not unprecedented approach to addressing the President’s refusal to assent to the Finance Bill. MPs have stated their intention to hold up the enactment of the Finance Bill if the President does not assent to the Bill in its current form. Never mind the negative implications that this will have on the country, the government and parliament itself…so once again Parliament’s actions raise the issue of whether the interest of 222 MPs will trump the interests of 40 million Kenyans.