The nine outgoing Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) bosses bargained for a Sh315.4 million send-off package, representing the huge cost to taxpayers of ejecting them ahead of their November 2017 retirement date.
The severance pay, which is to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund, has the effect of inflating the commissioners’ total earnings in the 2016/17 fiscal year from the initial estimate of Sh132.8 million to Sh448.2 million, according to Supplementary Budget estimates tabled in Parliament. The
commissioners, who were expected to stop working at the polls agency last month, are Issack Hassan (chairman), Lilian MahiriZaja (vice chairperson), Yusuf Nzibo, Albert Bwire, Kule Galma Godana, Abdullahi Sharawe, Mohamed Alawi Hussun, Muthoni Wangai and Thomas Letangule.
The total exit package means each commissioner has walked away with an average of Sh35 million, with the bulk of the payout going to them in the form of salaries for the remainder of their term.
The budget estimates show that total salaries payable to the commissioners in the review period have risen from Sh82 million to Sh395.3 million, translating to an increase of Sh313.3 million in absolute terms.
Allowances budget has risen by a Sh2 million margin from Sh50.8 million to Sh52.8 million.
The package is meant to cushion them from loss of future earnings, including salaries and gratuity payments. The team was sworn into office in November 2011 for a six year term.
The commissioners were entitled to a payout of about Sh152.5 million in gratuity for their contracts based on a March 1, 2013 Kenya Gazette notice published by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
The notice said “a State Officer serving on fixed term shall serve on contract and be paid a service gratuity at the end of the term at the rate of 31 per cent of annual basic pay for every year served.”
The outgoing IEBC commissioners agreed to leave office early on condition that they get severance pay, ending a political standoff over their continued service.
The opposition and civil society activists had objected to the outgoing team presiding over next year’s General Election, accusing them of corruption, incompetence and political bias.
A new team of IEBC commissioners is expected to take office in the coming weeks at the end of an ongoing recruitment process.
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The new commissioners are expected to get better remuneration compared to the the Issack Hassan team, meaning that taxpayers will have effectively paid more than double for the same positions.
The new commissioners are expected to earn a total of Sh144.2 million in the 2017/18 financial year, with the amount rising to Sh157.6 million in the subsequent year.
Just over half of the compensation will be in the form of salaries while the rest will go to payment of allowances that continue to account for a substantial portion of total earnings of public servants.
The budget plan means the Treasury kept its promise of paying the outgoing IEBC commissioners out of the Consolidated Fund, treating the payout as an unforeseen expenditure.
Initially united in their resolve to stay in office, the joint position cracked in June when four commissioners wrote to State House offering to resign on condition that they were paid their salaries for the remaining period of their term.
The sendoff package adds to the heavy cost that taxpayers are shouldering to maintain or retire constitutional commissions and independent offices.
Members of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) left office in December 2015 with an average Sh35 million golden parachute each after their term of service came to an end.
The average monthly pay of top National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) nearly doubled to more than Sh1 million in the current fiscal year that began in July.
Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo’s pay was also bumped 44 per cent over the next two years to above Sh2 million per month, putting her package near that of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Members of the various commissions have been criticised for drawing hefty salaries, usually above Sh1 million, which puts them in a small elite group of mega earners in a country where the majority of formal sector workers earn less than Sh50,000 a month.
The exit of the commissioners now shifts attention to changes to the electoral laws and the implication on the election date which is set for August 8 next year.