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MPs oppose order on allowance, vows to fight SRC.

Lawmakers have accused the salaries agency of dishonesty over its threat to challenge in court the house allowance it claims was irregularly paid to them. On Wednesday, Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) chairperson Lyn Mengich issued a statement castigating the decision by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to award each of the 416 members in the National Assembly and Senate a monthly house allowance of Sh250,000. The windfall, taxed at 30 per cent, was backdated to October 5, 2018, the day High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ruled that all State officers are entitled to a house or a house allowance paid for by the State.

On July 7, 2017, SRC issued a gazette notice capping the salaries and reducing or abolishing allowances paid to State and public officers in the Executive, Parliament, Judiciary, constitutional commissions and independent offices. But MPs were the only category of State officers affected, as they were denied a house allowance unlike governors, their deputies, Cabinet secretaries, judges, principal secretaries, members of constitutional commissions and independent offices.

To cement her opposition to PSC's decision, Ms Mengich said SRC was assembling a team of lawyers to recover the money "irregularly" paid to the MPs. On Thursday, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and MPs John Mbadi (Suba South) and Adan Keynan (Eldas), speaking separately, said the commission should not discriminate against MPs in the remuneration of State officers.

"There is no need of hitting at each other in the Press but when we meet, it will be known who between PSC and the SRC is saying the truth. We want a resolution of the issue that is not discriminative," said Mr Muturi, who chairs PSC.

The MPs' house allowance was paid by the Treasury through the legal opinion of Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki. Ms Mengich did not say whether her office was consulted before the money was released and whether she heard of the PSC decision through the media.

The Speaker further wants a leadership meeting of all the sector institutions of State officers called to thrash out the issue. "This matter should be solved soberly because as Parliament, we will not condone any form of discrimination against any category of State, public officers or civil servants," he said.

Justice Mwita's ruling came after deputy governors filed a case claiming the SRC decision to leave them out was discriminatory. SRC did not appeal the ruling and instead "secretly" wrote to governors requiring them to give their deputies a house or a house allowance.

In November 2018, High Court Judge George Odunga declared unconstitutional parts of the SRC gazette notice. SRC unsuccessfully sought a stay of the judgment pending the hearing and determination of an appeal it had filed.

The hearing of the appeal is set for May 24.

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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:May 17, 2019
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