The step by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to challenge illegal payment of Sh250,000 monthly house allowances to Members of Parliament raises important questions about what the legislators can or cannot do with regard to raising their own pay and perks.
Evidently, legislators overreached themselves when they awarded themselves the allowance which the SRC says will amount to double compensation since their basic pay already incorporates housing costs.
The SRC is the institution that sets remuneration of public servants and it is only logical that it has decided to challenge the MPs’ cash grab in court.
The MPs have used a judgment by Justice Chacha Mwita last year to give themselves the additional perks, arguing that they had been discriminated against.
The SRC, however, contends that the legislators are already paid allowances for housing as part of their basic pay. The ball will soon be in the court of the Judiciary.
If the SRC fails to claw back the house allowances, which were backdated to October last year, the stage will have been set for more profligate spending by Parliament, which has already allocated itself a huge amount in the proposed Budget for next year.
Legislators, who have always schemed to grab more cash from State coffers, will continue with their selfish interpretation of what SRC’s guidelines mean and what they are entitled to.
This dangerous precedent will likely be taken up by other public servants, weakening the SRC’s mandate and the ultimate goal of curbing runaway spending in government.
If MPs prevail, the current bloated public sector wage bill will only get larger and interfere with the country’s finances, with ramifications for the overall economy, including igniting demands for higher pay from other public servants.
The public wage bill stands at more than Sh600 billion annually and gobbles up more than 40 percent of the revenue collected each year.
The money goes to compensate some 700,000 public officers who represent less than two percent of the Kenyan population.
Is this fair? Is it reasonable? Let the courts decide.
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