Parliament’s wage bill has grown by more than a third to Sh8.5 billion in the nine months to March, reflecting the burden of the increased number of legislators, MPs hefty perks and more parliamentary staff.
The Controller of Budget’s latest report shows that the wage bill of the National Assembly and the Senate rose by Sh2.2 billion from Sh6.3 billion paid in the same period last year.
This is attributed to the expanded Parliament and the pay deal agreed last year 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, which includes 68 senators and 47 women representatives, up from 222 legislators under the centralised system of government.
The wage bill for the MPs and their staff in the last full year of the centralised government that ended in June 2012 was Sh3.6 billion.
The expenses exclude Sh2.6 billion used on foreign and domestic travel allowances in the nine months to March.
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.
Though each of the members of the National Assembly and Senate earn a basic monthly salary of about Sh580,000, allowances push their monthly take-home to more than Sh1 million. MPs also earn more by sitting in committees.
This was the product of a deal brokered by Mr Ruto that 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 legislators in Africa.
Kenya launched the devolved system of government, which created 47 regional administrative units, to try to hasten rural development, but it also resulted in nearly doubling of elective positions.
Parliamentary staff such as researchers, Hansard reporters and support workers also increased in tandem with the expanded House.
The cost of paying a new crop of officials comes at a time when Kenya is struggling to cover Civil Service wages after agreeing huge salary increases for teachers, doctors and the police.