There is an urgent need to rein in the wanton and ever-rising spending on the remuneration and upkeep of Members of Parliament.
Having paid themselves Sh250,000 monthly allowances — a new compensation item described by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) as illegal — the legislators now plan to raise their spending on constituency offices by Sh440 million in the fiscal year starting July. This would take the expenditure to Sh7.3 billion from the Sh6.8 billion being spent this financial year.
It goes without saying that unchecked spending on MPs is unsustainable, especially in light of the fact that limits set by SRC are routinely breached with impunity.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is among the leaders who have criticised the lavish perks demanded by the legislators. This has not deterred the MPs and neither have directives from the SRC, the agency established to set compensation for public servants.
Since moral persuasion and regulations appear not to work, it may be time to consider inscribing MPs’ compensation in the Constitution. This is timely given the current clamour for changes to the supreme law, largely driven by politicians in pursuit of their interests.
History has shown that it would be foolhardy to expect legislators to agree to have their budget maintained or reduced, regardless of the performance of the economy besides being among the highest-paid MPs in the world.
It is also an opportunity to reduce the size of Parliament, whose membership of 416 has been described as bloated taking into account the country’s economy and population.
It is worth noting that political representation is even larger if county government structures are in the picture.
It is regrettable that the betrayal by MPs has been abetted by various offices.
By second-guessing the SRC, they have handed the legislators a blank cheque. The National Assembly Speaker, for instance, has defended the house allowances arguing that MPs should not be discriminated against.
Institutions like the salaries agency should be allowed to do their job and the legislators’ impunity must end.