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MCAs’ allowance bill drops for first time to Sh1.7bn

SRC chairperson Sarah Serem. file photo | nmg
SRC chairperson Sarah Serem. file photo | nmg 

The average monthly sitting allowance paid to Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) dropped for the first time in the nine months to March 2017, signalling that the battle against theft and wastage in the devolved governments is beginning to bear fruit.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo says in her latest report that each MCA took home an average Sh84,875 per month in sitting allowances, down from Sh102,045 in a similar period a year earlier — a 16.8 per cent drop.

But at Sh84,875, an MCA’s monthly meetings allowance is still 37 per cent higher than Kenya’s average monthly salary of Sh53,736.

The allowances have been rising steadily since the MCAs took office in May 2013, causing concern that the perks were gobbling up county government revenues with minimal corresponding impact in terms of public service.

The ward representatives earned an average Sh82,712 a month in sitting allowances in their first year in office that ended June 2014. That amount rose steadily in the subsequent years to cross the Sh100,000 mark.

The 16.8 per cent dip is expected to have saved the taxpayers about Sh950 million. The allowances are paid out for attending plenary (chamber) sittings and committee meetings, making them top-ups on the MCAs’ monthly salaries.

The Sarah Serem-led Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has, however, abolished the perks, meaning the new crop of representatives elected on August 8 elections will have no chance of using similar means to pick taxpayers’ pockets.

Only one county, Trans Nzoia, paid monthly sitting allowances in excess of the maximum Sh124,800 that the SRC has recommended.

This is down from 10 counties that breached the limit in a similar period a year earlier.

Trans Nzoia led the allowances gravy train in the review period with each of the 40 MCAs pocketing Sh136,251 monthly compared to their more frugal counterparts in Lamu, who received the least from meetings at Sh12,063 a month.

Overall, the 47 devolved units spent Sh1.73 billion on 2,266 MCAs’ sitting allowances between June 2016 and March this year, down from the Sh2.68 billion they spent on allowances in a similar period a year earlier or a 35.4 per cent cutback. Besides the hefty allowances, MCAs were entitled to a monthly salary of about Sh165,000 alongside mileage allowances.

The SRC, which sets salaries for public servants, early this month unveiled the 2017-2022 pay structure, which replaces the current one, slashing MCAs pay from Sh165,000 to Sh144,375 a month.

Sitting and mileage allowances for MCAs and MPs have also been abolished as part of efforts to tame the bloated wage bill, currently accounting for half the government’s tax revenues.

The Controller of Budget’s report shows that Homa Bay MCAs enjoyed the second-biggest meeting allowances in the review period, behind Trans Nzoia, at Sh123,649 a month, followed by those in Samburu (Sh121,384) and Garissa (Sh118,595).

Thousands of candidates are vying for MCA in the upcoming August 8 elections, edged on by the hefty pay that comes with the position.

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