Kenya: A fresh fight has erupted in the National Assembly over MPs’ claim of fraudulent payments to a section of their colleagues.
The fraud has so far cost the taxpayer Sh1.8 billion and majority of MPs, especially those from far-flung constituencies, have now gone on an allowance claiming spree.
Insiders say some MPs have secretly complained to the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi about how their colleagues are using procedural loopholes to make claims for mileage, to an extent there are now two categories of MPs – the money-makers and the broke fellows.
MPs familiar with the payment records and procedures told The Standard on Sunday that there are some lawmakers who make at least Sh2 million monthly in fake mileage claims.
Others cannot afford to make the claims because they live close to Nairobi, and as such, their travels to their constituencies are covered by the motor-vehicle maintenance allowance of Sh356,000 a month.
The claims are based on an assumption that an MP travels to his constituency weekly.
The MPs are supposed to file their mileage records as evidence, but over time, that practice has been neglected and such MPs just show up, and tell the cashier they were home for the weekend, and they are paid.
In most cases, even MPs who stay in Nairobi over the weekends demand payment.
The matter has become controversial within Parliament that the Speaker was compelled to convene an informal meeting a day before the MPs went on recess to address the issue.
Gichugu MP Njogu Barua and his Makadara counterpart Benson Mutura wrote to the Speaker protesting that the formula used to make mileage claims “is not only a fraud but also discriminatory”.
For instance, although some fly to their constituencies incurring a cost of not more than Sh20,000, they make a mileage claim of up to Sh189,000 weekly.
Credible sources within Parliamentary Service Commission showed The Standard on Sunday claims that an MP made Sh1.9 million in a month.
Every MP is also paid Sh356,000 monthly for vehicle maintenance allowance.
Njogu and Mutura asked the Speaker to explain why some members have been making fraudulent claims even when they don’t travel, yet others are barred from making any claims at all because of the threshold set out for such claims.
Muturi confirmed that his office had received the letters, which were read out to all the other members during the meeting. Both Barua and Mutura were not available on phone for comment.
In the meeting held recently, a heated argument ensued pitting those in support of the current formula against those pushing for a more accountable one.
The MPs are required to provide a copy of the logbook for their vehicles because compensation is based on the engine capacity. Some MPs are said to be using old logbooks of high-engine capacity vehicles to make claims.
“Parliament does not frequently check the ownership of the logbooks, meaning some MPs could still use details of vehicles they have since sold, got involved in accidents and are no longer in use to make the claims,” the insiders said.
“It is assumed that an MP travels once every week to their constituencies. According to the agreement reached by Public Service Commission and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, a member must cover a distance of 750 kilometres within a month to start making claims. There is an on-going discussion because some members felt this formula is unfair,” the Speaker explained.
A section of MPs want this formula amended to demand that MPs are only reimbursed actual cost incurred or have the mileage claims abolished altogether.
Our investigations further established that MPs resolved to form a committee of eight to develop a working document aimed at resolving the crisis.
Both coalitions; the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy and the Jubilee Alliance are to pick four members each.
Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra (ODM) said the current system is a fraud because while some members make unauthenticated claims for millions, MPs from Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nairobi counties are left out.
“We do not intend to make mileage claims haphazardly but we demand for accountability. The general practice in many countries across the world is such that every member is reimbursed the actual cost incurred in mileage or is provided with means of transport. We need to be accountable to our people, “said Sumra.
His sentiments were echoed by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, who said it would be fair to ensure that either members get government transport and abolish mileage claims or develop a formula that ensures fairness.
“Leaders from constituencies within Nairobi and its environs travel to our constituencies frequently but do not claim the mileage. I don’t mind but I also find it unfair,” said Ichung’wa.
By Mwaniki Munuhe, The Standard