The latest move by Parliament to award hefty pension package to former Speakers of the National Assembly is unjustified. The MPs revised the pension budget for the three ex-speakers — Ekwee Ethuro, Kenneth Marende and Francis ole Kaparo — to include a Sh120 million golden handshake.
In effect, this elevates them to the same status as former Presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki in terms of pension — despite the trio already receiving attractive retirement benefits.
Under the Deputy President and Designated State Officers Act, which also caters for the pension of chief justices and their deputies, as well as vice-presidents, ex-speakers are entitled to a monthly pension of Sh554,400, a lump sum send-off of Sh13.8 million and fuel allowance of Sh173,250 per month. They also get medical insurance and staff such as personal assistants, secretaries, messengers, housekeepers and drivers at taxpayers’ expense.
With the proposed package, the National Treasury will have to set aside Sh2 billion in the financial year starting July 2020, up from the Sh1.5 billion being spent on the retired officers.
But the MPs are setting a bad precedent by pooling so many people to benefit from State largesse when they are already catered for. It is unfair to pamper a few at the expense of the rest of the population. What is the rationale for this decision? Did the retired speakers request for the additional pay? Has any evaluation been done to determine whether what they earn is inadequate and, therefore, warrants such an opulent top-up?
The move by Parliament paints the picture of an institution that is drunk with power and irredeemably infatuated with raiding public coffers on the slightest pretext. Many Kenyans would be forgiven to assume that, in the mind of the parliamentarians, their sole concern is rewarding themselves and former public officers, no matter the cost and pain to the taxpayers.
Just the other day, the MPs decided to pay themselves hefty house allowances in addition to the generous mortgage that they enjoy, a matter that has attracted intense opposition from the public. In fact, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has challenged the unilateral award in court.
It is high time the legislators appreciated the fact that taxpayers are struggling to foot the cost of running a bloated government and cannot, therefore, countenance additional burden. At this point in time, when the government is talking of employing civil servants on contract in a bid to cut costs, the public cannot accept a scenario where a few pampered individuals are well remunerated while the rest of the population suffers.