Outrage and disappointment greeted Tuesday’s Nation exposé of plans by Members of Parliament to reinstate and increase allowances that had been scrapped by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
Civil society, religious, and consumer groups leaders termed the lawmakers’ move “insensitive, outrageous and ridiculous at best”, while Kenyans on social media used the hashtag #BureKabisa to protest the move, which they termed a manifestation of greed and a threat to future generations.
The condemnation came as National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi asked the SRC to come clean on the matter and tell the public the truth behind the disputed Sh250,000 monthly housing allowance for MPs.
Mr Muturi, also the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), which is in charge of MPs’ and parliamentary staff welfare, accused SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich of distorting facts around the MPs’ perks and setting them up against the public.
“The Attorney-General advised SRC to come to us (PSC) so that we can agree on the amount to be paid to the members, but the commission has never bothered. Why isn’t the commission telling Kenyans the truth?” Mr Muturi said from Tanzania, where he is on official duty. “We all know that the mandate to interpret the law is vested in the courts, which have spoken. The SRC has no otherwise but to implement the court ruling.”
He was referring to a Court of Appeal decision that allowed legislators to continue enjoying their current income pending the determination of an appeal filed by SRC.
Justices William Ouko, Asike Makhandia and Otieno Odek said although the appeal was arguable, there was nothing to show that the MPs would not be able to refund the monies paid, if the appeal succeeds.
The Judges said one of the key objectives in granting an order of stay is to preserve status quo pending hearing and determination of an intended appeal.
In a Gazette Notice published on July 7, 2017, SRC had, among other things, abolished the car grant, reduced the number of sitting allowances for plenary sessions, and also abolished reimbursable mileage allowance.
But Justice George Odunga of the High Court quashed the Gazette Notice, stating that there were procedural improprieties in its promulgation.
MPs had challenged the notice as unreasonable, arguing that SRC ignored relevant considerations and the law. They said the move was also discriminatory and malicious because it went against their legitimate expectations.
Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro said the new demands by MPs and threats to force their way to have the demands met border on recklessness and are ridiculous in the
He added that the MPs are not just becoming a threat to independent institutions, but are also ruining the lives of future generations.
“It’s like they live in another world separate from the rest of us. The demands are ridiculous and the legislators are now pushing Kenyans to the brink of a revolution. It’s time we stood up and said ‘enough is enough’,” he cautioned.
The bullish behaviour by the MPs, he said, is informed by the fact that they have connived to water down clauses on how they can be recalled.
“Most of them do not know the roles of an MP,” Mr Mutoro said. “Their roles do not require such kinds of allowances, but they have made their recall so difficult by amending the law.”
Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) Presiding Convener Suba Churchill said the demands are a clear sign of how deep-rooted impunity is in the country, perpetuated by individuals in trusted positions of leadership.
He described the demands as insensitive given they’re coming at a time many Kenyans are battling inflation and high prices of commodities. “This is the time when they should be fighting for the common mwananchi but they have turned into dictators,” said Mr Churchill.
He said time was ripe for a fight to reduce the number of legislators and reflect on which system, whether parliamentary or presidential, would work best for the country.
“If this is a presidential system and the MPs have the audacity to make such demands; one shudders to think of what they would become in a parliamentary one,” he said.
The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) National chairman Yusuf Nzibo termed the move as “morally wrong” and against the wishes of Kenyans.
He appealed to the legislators to rethink their demands as the move is wrong and will not be accepted by religious leaders and the citizens.
Former Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale said some legislators live beyond their means, hence the regular push for more pay.
“They have a celebrity mentality,” Mr Khalwale said. “Instead of socialising in their regular joints, they start going to five-star restaurants once they are elected.”
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said he has never participated in a sitting that MPs called for a pay rise as that is the work of the Parliamentary Service Commission.
Speaking on NTV’s AM Live show, he said constant media reports that give a blanket condemnation on MPs are annoying and unfair.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot wondered what the media gains “after bastardising parliamentarians”.
“The only figure that is in dispute right now is the house allowance. If today a government worker went to Nakuru, they would be paid subsistence allowance.
“There is nothing that we have paid MPs that hasn’t been paid to other government employees,” Mr Cheruiyot said.
Mr Muturi said the Sh18,200 MPs are seeking as subsistence night allowance was approved by SRC and wondered why it had changed tune. He also faulted the commission for not doing proper studies across the globe, including benchmarking with the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU), to analyse MPs’ salaries.
“SRC should also come clear on what other state officers earn. The SRC Act talks about job evaluation, but they have done none. They are preoccupied with fighting MPs,” he said.
Should the MPs’ demands sail through, their salaries will be increased from the current Sh1.1 million to between Sh2.1 million and Sh2.9 million a month.
In a memorandum to the SRC, the lawmakers are seeking to have their car grants doubled from the current Sh5 million to Sh10 million. They also want an increase of their mortgage entitlements, to extend their medical cover to more than one spouse, and retain huge car maintenance and mileage allowances.
Should their demands for an increased car grant fail, the MPs have threatened to use taxpayers’ money to buy top-of-the-range four-wheel-drive vehicles for the 359 of them.
Reporting by David Mwere, Collins Omulo, Joseph Wangui and Anita Chepkoech
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.