Members of Parliament are pushing for a 62 percent pay increase to Sh1.15 million monthly and an additional Sh2.5 million for the tax-free car grant, opening a new battlefront with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC)
The lawmakers also want the SRC to reinstate a monthly house allowance and raise the perks to Sh400,000.
The MPs argue they deserve being in the same salary scale as Court of Appeal judges who currently earn a maximum monthly salary of Sh1,156,108.
Each of the 416 lawmakers is currently entitled to a minimum monthly salary of between Sh621,250 and Sh710,000.
The MPs’ push for additional pay and perks conflicts with a deal Kenya inked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to freeze salaries for all public 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.
The SRC has proposed cuts on MPs’ committee sittings, local travel perks and car grants ahead of the August General Election.
Lawmakers argue they needed high wages because constituents expect them to provide charitable support.
Some also say that MPs could be vulnerable to bribes if their salaries were set too low.
“We are demanding to be placed in the same job scale as judges of the appeal court who enjoy house allowances while we get a mortgage. We should benefit like others,” said an MP at an informal meeting.
The 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 want the millage claim increased or maintained.
The commission has proposed a cap on 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. MPs want the perks increased to above Sh7,500 for ordinary members.
Details from a closed-door session, commonly referred to as the Speakers Kamukunji, indicate that MPs also demanded an increase in car grants from the current Sh5 million to Sh7.5 million.
The SRC cut the tax-free car grant cut 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.
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.