A brewing battle between the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Kenyan Parliament is set to erupt over a proposed bill that would grant MPs significant autonomy in determining their own allowances. The SRC, the independent body mandated to set and review public sector salaries and benefits, has vowed to strongly oppose the bill, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest and unbridled spending.
The controversial bill, the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2023, seeks to amend the Parliamentary Service Act and grant the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) the power to determine and adjust allowances for MPs without recourse to the SRC. This includes local and foreign daily subsistence allowances, transport payments, and other financial perks currently overseen by the Commission.
The SRC’s opposition was made clear in a strongly worded statement issued by its Chairperson, Lynnette Ogut: “The Commission is of the considered view that the proposed amendments are unconstitutional and recommends that they be deleted from the Bill. Vesting one state entity with the power to set its own remuneration is not only a recipe for conflict of interest but also a potential drain on the public purse.”
Ogut further argued that the proposed changes violate Article 230 of the Constitution, which grants the SRC exclusive authority to manage public sector remuneration and benefits. She warned that granting MPs unilateral control over their allowances could set a dangerous precedent, potentially sparking similar demands from other sectors and leading to uncontrolled public spending.
The Parliament’s justification for the bill revolves around concerns about the SRC’s alleged bureaucratic processes and delays in adjusting allowances to reflect changing economic realities. Supporters of the bill argue that MPs, due to their unique roles and responsibilities, require greater flexibility in managing their financial needs.
However, critics counter that the proposed changes raise serious concerns about transparency and accountability. They argue that allowing MPs to determine their own allowances without external oversight creates a fertile ground for abuse and potential corruption.
The looming showdown between the SRC and the Parliament threatens to reignite public debate about the issue of public sector salaries and benefits, particularly those enjoyed by elected officials. With both sides firmly entrenched in their positions, the fate of the bill and the future of MP allowances remain uncertain.
The outcome of this clash will have significant implications for Kenya’s public finances, governance, and public trust in elected officials. The SRC’s unwavering stance against the bill suggests a determined effort to uphold its constitutional mandate and safeguard public resources. Only time will tell whether the Parliament will heed the Commission’s concerns or push forward with its plans to grant MPs greater control over their own financial rewards.