It has emerged that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) tried to sweet-talk MPs in a last-ditch effort to convince them not to slash its current budget by Sh125.6 million.
The SRC is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the 416 MPs and senators over the decision by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to approve a Sh250,000 monthly house allowance for them. The money was paid in April this year and backdated to October 5, 2018, the day High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ruled that all State officers are entitled to a house or a housing allowance from the government.
The House Committee on Budget and Appropriations, chaired by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, slashed the SRC’s budget on the recommendations of the Finance and National Planning Committee chaired by Kipkelion East MP Joseph Limo, which said the expenditure was not an emergency.
The commission chaired by Ms Lyn Mengich had spent Sh99.19 million on vehicles and transport, Sh20 million refurbishing its offices and Sh2.85 million on domestic, subsistence and other costs without a budget or the approval of the National Treasury as required by law.
It was seeking to have the MPs rationalise the expenditure in the supplementary budget passed last week.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale made the revelations in Parliament last Thursday, shortly before Treasury CS Henry Rotich presented the budget highlights for the 2019/20 financial year.
“For the first time, SRC sent me amendments that I carry for them but I told them to come to the House and carry the amendments themselves (sic),” Mr Duale said. His remarks came after it emerged that SRC had written to Mr Rotich, asking him to plead with the MPs to have the money reinstated.
A breakdown of the slashed amount include Sh99.17 million spent for the purchase of the vehicles and other transport equipment, Sh20.4 million for the refurbishment of its offices, Sh2.85 million incurred for domestic and subsistence and other transportation costs.
The others are Sh2 million for operating expenses and Sh1.13 million for the purchase of office furniture.
It is important to note that the vehicles used by the other commissioners before they left office last year, were very much available and the new commissioners would have easily inherited them.
Although the commission cited Article 223 of the constitution to support the expenditures, the MPs faulted the move.
The Article provides that government ministries, agencies and departments may spend money that has not been appropriated for, on emergencies (drought, floods, and insecurity) but must seek post- facto approval from the National Assembly within two months of the expenditure.
The MPs wondered what was so urgent that the commission could not wait, noting that what the commission listed is outside what the Article says.
“It defeats the purpose why new commissioners should come to the office and buy new cars while the former commissions had vehicles that are available. This is also not a commission that is not coming to the office for the first time to incur expenses on office refurbishment,” Mr Ichung’wah said.
Although Mr Duale and Mr Ichung’wah denied claims that parliament is punishing the commission over the housing allowance row, they noted that it is part of prudent use of funds especially now that the government is struggling to fund this year’s budget.
But while confirming the request, Duale was categorical that he will not accept to be used as a rubber stamp by anyone and thus told SRC to make their case on their own.
Despite falling in the category of State officers, the legislators had not been getting house allowances.