Parliament’s wage bill rose by more than Sh2 billion in the last one year, underlining the burden Kenyans are bearing to maintain an expanded House and enhanced perks for the legislators.
The Controller of Budget’s latest report for the year ending June 2015 shows that the wage bill of the National Assembly and the Senate stood at Sh11.2 billion, an increase from Sh9.2 billion a year earlier.
The increase is attributed to additional law makers and the pay deal agreed in 2013 with Deputy President William Ruto that cut MPs’ basic pay, but only in exchange for a tax-free car grant, mileage allowances, pensions and unlimited committee sessions that guarantee hefty meeting perks.
Parliament’s wage bill has been climbing steadily under the devolved system that has 418 members, including 68 senators and 47 women representatives, up from 222 legislators under the centralised system of government.
The wage bill of the current Parliament is equal to the entire budget for the House for the year ending June 2013.
In addition to their wages, the legislators also spent Sh4.1 billion in travel last year. In total, the recurrent budget for the two Houses was Sh20.5 billion.
The Parliamentary Service Commission pays salaries and allowances of the legislators and their staff, but the bulk of the payment is taken by the lawmakers, whose salaries increase by about eight per cent annually.
An analysis by the Business Daily has shown that the cost of keeping an MP in the House will rise to an average of Sh2 million per month in the current year that began in June.
The 418 legislators will earn the money in basic pay and personal allowances paid as part of the salary that adds up to about Sh1.387 million (combined average for MPs and senators).
Each MP then earns an average of Sh509,214 per month in domestic travel and other transportation costs.
The deal brokered by Mr Ruto in 2013 gave MPs a Sh5 million tax-free grant to buy a car, instead of the Sh7 million loan that was originally proposed by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
Mileage allowance was raised and a cap was removed on the number of times parliamentary committees could meet.
The SRC had earlier restricted committee meetings to a maximum of four per week, but the MPs can now hold as many sessions as they deem necessary. This has helped cement their position as being among the best paid law makers in Africa.
Kenya launched the devolved system of government, which created 47 regional administrative units, to try to hasten rural development, but it has nearly doubled elective positions.
Parliamentary staff such as researchers, Hansard reporters and support workers also increased in tandem with the expanded House.