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SRC braces for battle with MPs over housing allowances

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By DAVID MWERE
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The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) wants members of Parliament compelled to return to Kenyans the hefty house allowance paid to them, which the agency has termed irregular, in what promises to be a gruelling court battle.

The decision by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to award MPs and senators a monthly house allowance of Ksh250,000, backdated to October last year, sparked outrage by Kenyans who condemned the leaders’ greed.

Kenyan MPs are among the highest paid in the world, with a salary of Sh621,250 and hefty perks including a medical cover of Sh10 million (inpatient) and Sh300,000 (outpatient) and a car loan of Sh7 million at only three per cent interest.

In addition, they enjoy a Sh20 million mortgage taxed at only three per cent a year.

On Wednesday, SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich said the commission, the only state body constitutionally mandated to review the salaries and allowances of state and public officers as contained in the July 7, 2017 gazette notice, would move to court to challenge the house allowance.

The July 2017 notice detailed new salary cuts, as well as slashed and abolished allowances for state and public officers, in a move it said was to save the taxpayer Sh8.8 billion annually.

However, two high court rulings of October and December 2018 declared some parts of the SRC gazette notice of July 2017 unconstitutional.

The SRC failed to get stay orders against the ruling which invalidated parts of the July gazette notice, pending the hearing and determination of its appeal.

Defending the award, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who also chairs the PSC, said: “The recent PSC determination to provide a housing benefit to MPs was well guided by Justice Chacha Mwita’s ruling of October 5, 2018, which established that state officers qualify for this benefit.”

He added: “It is a matter of fact that MPs are state officers and it would be unfair to be prejudiced against them.”

Ms Mengich said any payment of house allowance outside the gross pay of any state or public officer is unconstitutional.

She noted that MPs just like other state and public officers enjoy a housing allowance, which is part of their gross pay, and that allowing them to get away with the allowance would amount to double payment.

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“The commission has taken steps to ensure that all payments that do not have the SRC approval are stopped. The commission will take legal action to stop any payment that has not been set or advised and recover such allowances,” she said.

The National Assembly Speaker has argued that other state officers, such as Cabinet secretaries, judges, governors and their deputies, principal secretaries and members of constitutional commissions and independent offices are entitled to a house allowance among other perks.

Ms Mengich confirmed that the hearing for stay orders is set for this month.

She added that the commission has not set any house allowance for state officers in the Executive, county governments, Parliament, Judiciary and constitutional commissions and independent offices outside the July gazette notice, noting that officers in these institutions are only entitled to a gross pay that includes basic salary and allowances.

She clarified that only the president, the deputy president, governors and deputy governors are entitled to a housing benefit for the state functions they perform.

According to the SRC remuneration structure, MPs were the biggest losers as they were to take a reduction in basic salary and lost five allowances including a Sh5 million car grant that would later be restored.

In the 2017/18 financial year, Kenya’s public wage bill stood at about Sh733 billion, about 50 per cent of the country’s total revenue at the time.

This, according to the commission, exceeds the limit stipulated in the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, which provides that the expenditure on the wage bill should not exceed 35 per cent of total revenue.

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KTN’s Ben Kitili recounts how he was hit and injured by car while cycling – Nairobi News

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KTN news anchor Ben Kitili was involved in an accident two weeks ago while cycling.

Kitili was hit by a car and sustained bruises on his arm but managed to get back up on his bicycle.

According to a post he shared on social media, the journalist urged car drivers to be more mindful of the cyclists.

“Nairobi is one of the most hazardous cities for cyclists. This happened to me two weeks ago – knocked off the road by an idiot of a driver. Non-motorised transport infrastructure is needed. Good manners too. To borrow a quote, barabara is ya mama yako bwana,” he wrote.

https://twitter.com/Ben_Kitili/status/1268112892068536326?s=20

The Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) has started works to develop efficient non-motorised transport, recarpeting roads as well as improving drainage and streetlights.

Non-motorised transport work is ongoing on Kenyatta Avenue and Wabera Street in the city centre.

The non-motorised transport will also include the building of other components of the roads.

Phase one of the project follows River Nairobi from Donholm to Westlands.

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The second phase joins phase one in the city centre to Lang’ata via Railway city while phase three is from the CBD to Roysambu through Ngara.

According to NMS Transport, Roads and Public Works director Michael Ochieng, the project will improve walking spaces and encourage Nairobi residents to start walking or using bicycles.

“The journey to change the state of roads in the city centre has begun. We target more than 100 kilometres of non-motorised transport in just one year,” Mr Ochieng said.

According to data by the National Transport and Safety Authority, motorcycles retain an infamous record as the highest rising cause of death on Kenyan roads.

By the end of March this year, 49 cyclists died on the road; a staggering 459 motorcyclists died in 2019 compared to 365 the year before.

According to WHO, between 3,000 and 13,000 Kenyans lose their lives in road traffic crashes every year.

The majority of these victims are motorcyclists and pedestrians.

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Four cops charged in Floyd death, one with 2nd-degree murder » Capital News

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The death of George Floyd has sparked nationwide protests, including this one in Washington near the US Capitol on June 3, 2020 © AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Minneapolis, United States, Jun 3 – The white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on the neck of a black man who later died will now be charged with second-degree murder, and his three colleagues will also face charges, court documents revealed Wednesday.

The May 25 death of George Floyd — who had been accused of trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit bill — has ignited protests across the United States over systemic racism and police brutality.

“Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree in George Floyd’s murder and also charging other 3 officers,” US Senator Amy Klobuchar tweeted.

“This is another important step for justice.”

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Chauvin was charged last week with third-degree murder, which is roughly akin to manslaughter. A charge of second-degree murder does not suggest premeditation but carries stiffer penalties.

Court documents show the second-degree murder charge was added to the prior charges.

The three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, documents show.

In a statement, Floyd’s family described news of the new charges as a “bittersweet moment.”

“This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action came before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest,” the statement said.

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The statement, issued by family attorney Ben Crump, also said that Ellison would consider elevating the charge to premeditated murder “if the evidence supports it.”

The family urged protesters to “raise their voices for change in peaceful ways.”

Tens of thousands of demonstrators defied night-time curfews Tuesday in several US cities.

But the demonstrations were largely peaceful, and while there were tense standoffs with law enforcement, the protests did not feature the looting or clashes with police of previous days.

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Ugandan officials, manufacturers disagree on price of making masks

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By DAILY MONITOR

Back-to-back negotiations with mask manufacturers ended in a deadlock after the firms rejected an offer by the government of Uganda.

Out of 60 companies that applied to manufacture the free government masks, only 10 have been approved.

But the disagreement over the price for each mask is holding back the process.

The Daily Monitor understands that all the bidders who have applied for procurement of 33 million masks in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic have quoted prices above the government offer.

LOWEST BID

Only one company has the lowest bid at Ush2,000 per piece.

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Some companies, according to sources close to National Covid-19 Taskforce, have asked for Ush5,000 per mask, yet others want between Shs2500 and Shs4000 (inclusive of VAT).

The government is in the process of enforcing compulsory wearing of masks for Ugandans aged six years and above but had fixed the price at Ush1,000 per mask. But the bidders have rejected this offer.

In a separate joint petition to Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde, five companies have asked for 2,500 per mask.

Ex-Ken (U) Ltd, Big Concepts, Sigma Knitting Industries, Christex Industries and Winfred Fashion wrote: “We would like you to reconsider the price offered so we can be able to manufacture the required masks. We strongly feel that Shs2,500 net is a fair price per piece.”

SUBMITTED DOCUMENTS

A group of 50 bidders have submitted documents to the Ministry of Health and samples to Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) for certification.

For the last two weeks, the companies have held several meetings with Ministry of Health officials but failed to agree on pricing.

The companies have rejected the Ush1,000 offer and made it clear to government that the price falls below their production costs. This has enraged some members of the National Covid-19 Taskforce, who have accused the bidders of being insensitive and using the pandemic to enrich themselves.

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The price wars explain the delay in the procurement of free masks.

PULL OUT OF DEAL

But some mask producers have agreed to negotiate but other firms have rejected the government offer and threatened to pull out of the deal.

On Monday, Health minister Ruth Jane Aceng tabled the matter before the Cabinet and requested for guidance in order to side-step the anticipated delays.

In the Cabinet, the ministers had no kind words for the mask manufacturers and some even proposed that the procurement rules be revised to allow businesswomen and other local manufacturers in Kiyembe and other parts of the country to bid on a sub-contract basis.

This proposal was nipped in the bud after it emerged that circumventing the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) procurement rules might invite unnecessary audit queries.

RENEGOTIATE

After a long discussion in Cabinet, ministers approved Ush2,500 as the cost of each piece of mask. Cabinet asked the Ministry of Health to renegotiate with the companies before they extended the deadline for distribution of free masks to June 10. They also instructed the Health ministry to expedite the process.

On May 18, President Yoweri Museveni announced that distribution of government-provided face masks would begin on June 2 but this was not possible due to procurement delays.

The President on Monday extended the deadline to June 10 and told those without one to stay home.

Due to inadequate funding for the Ministry of Heath, the government has decided to distribute free masks in phases, starting with the 40 border districts under lockdown.

As Ugandans wait for free government masks, some are making their own out of fabric scraps.

However, health officials have warned that some could be fake and provided the required guidelines for the right masks.

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