Economy

MPs' pay up Sh40, 000 as meeting, travel perks cut

parlaiment
john-mutua-img
edwinmutai_img

Summary

  • The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), which advises the government on the wages of public sector officials, has cut mileage claims of Sh187 per kilometre for a return trip to their constituencies to Sh112.
  • MPs draw Sh5,000 per committee sitting, with the chairperson taking home Sh10,000 and vice-chairpersons Sh7,500, according to documents that were leaked to the press on Wednesday.
  • The SRC also cut the tax-free car grant from Sh5 million to Sh3.5 million, leaving MPs to use the subsidised vehicle loan of Sh7 million to purchase high-end cars like Toyota V8s.

MPs’ committee sittings, local travel perks and car grants have been cut ahead of the August General Election in the latest push to reduce the country’s ballooning wage bill.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), which advises the government on the wages of public sector officials, has cut mileage claims of Sh187 per kilometre for a return trip to their constituencies to Sh112.

It capped committee meetings to eight a month from the present unlimited sessions, hitting the two perks that have had the effect of doubling a lawmaker’s pay.

MPs draw Sh5,000 per committee sitting, with the chairperson taking home Sh10,000 and vice-chairpersons Sh7,500, according to documents that were leaked to the press on Wednesday.

The SRC also cut the tax-free car grant from Sh5 million to Sh3.5 million, leaving MPs to use the subsidised vehicle loan of Sh7 million to purchase high-end cars like Toyota V8s.

The commission, however, increased the MPs’ basic pay to Sh750,000 monthly from the current Sh710,000, a rise that does not compensate for the losses from the allowances cut.

The SRC is yet to make public the reduced perks, which has angered the lawmakers who argue the cuts would turn them into “beggars.”

Kenya is seeking to curb its ballooning wage bill that consumes half of all revenues and is impeding spending on development projects in a country mired in poverty and where the unemployment rate stands at above 20 percent.

To avoid confrontations with MPs, the salaries commission will prefer to gazette the changes after the closure of Parliament on June 9 ahead of the polls.

In 2017, the SRC announced the cut of salaries of top officials, including the President and lawmakers, on July 10 ahead of elections that happened on August 8.

“The SRC does not agree with the Parliamentary Service Commission’s proposals. But we will put our foot down. We will wait for the SRC budget and we will either shoot it down or cut it substantially,” said an MP who sought anonymity.

“SRC is a part-time commission but they are sitting permanently. They earn a full-time salary, get sitting and house allowances but are at the same time denying us house allowances.”

The decision to slash the MPs’ pay comes on the back of a deal brokered with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to freeze salaries for all civil servants for two years to 2025.

The pay freeze is expected to help rein in public sector salaries to free up cash for projects such as building roads that ultimately create jobs.

Kenya’s public sector wage bill stands at 50 percent of annual government tax revenue and the IMF puts the global benchmark at 35 percent.

The government has for years struggled to contain its ballooning wage bill that has squeezed funds for development, forcing the State to take loans for financing development projects and paying salaries.

The SRC says that the total wage bill for the public sector hit Sh827 billion in the year ended June 2020, reflecting a 34 percent jump from Sh615 billion in 2016.

The commission traditionally reviews the pay for lawmakers every electioneering year, with previous reviews done in 2017 and 2013.

The State agency, which advises the government on the wages of public officials, lost a previous bid to slash allowances and car grants for MPs in 2017.

The SRC had in July 2017 scrapped the Sh5 million car grant given to every legislator, removed some allowances and reduced basic monthly pay by Sh90,000 to Sh621,250 in a bid to save Sh8.5 billion a year.

The commission also abolished reimbursable mileage allowance, stopped sitting allowances for parliamentary plenary sessions and capped payment for committee meetings to 16 sittings per month.

But the High Court quashed the changes following a petition by MPs accusing the SRC of interfering with its constitutional mandate as well as seeking to cripple the functioning of the 12th Parliament.

[email protected]

[email protected]