What with terror attacks in Mombasa and Nairobi, and the terrible death toll arising from the drinking of a poisonous methanol-based brew dominating the news this week, you may have missed this: our politicians have been at it again, that is, democratically agreeing to pay themselves more.
KENYATTA AND RUTO – WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PAY CUT?
To be fair, President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto haven’t agreed to pay themselves more, they just haven’t done anything about implementing the decision to pay themselves less.
It was two months ago that the duo announced that they would take a pay cut of 20 per cent. Uhuru Kenyatta made the announcement as a result of public anger after they, together with the cabinet, heads of security, their support staff and all their bodyguards and drivers, went on a ‘retreat’ at an exclusive club in Nanyuki at a cost to the Kenyan taxpayer of Sh100 million. (See Kenya Forum posting, March 18, ‘Misplaced priorities: blatant wastage amid soaring public wage bill’).
As The Star reported on Wednesday however (‘Uhuru and Ruto still earning full salaries’), here we are approaching mid-May and both leaders are still enjoying their full salaries.
“NOT US” SAYS SRC, “NOT US” SAYS TREASURY
The delay in implementing the wage cut was put down to the fact that Uhuru and Ruto have yet to write formally to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) informing them of the decision to reduce their salaries.
Sara Serem, the chairperson of the SRC, reportedly told The Star however that it wasn’t up to her but rather the decision to reduce our top two leaders’ salaries rested with the Treasury. “The paymaster is the Treasury but so far hasn’t informed us about their pay cuts”, she said.
“Not us”, was in effect the reply from the Treasury through an official who didn’t want to be named. “We only pay salaries that have been approved by the commission”, he or she stated.
THE EVER RISING PERKS OF BEING AN MP IN KENYA
The Kenya Forum thinks that it was only reported on the inside pages of the Business Daily on Tuesday of this week (‘MP’s perks to rise over Sh1bn in next financial year’) that our beloved MP’s have, yet again, voted themselves more money in the way of an extra Sh1bn in perks for the next year (that’s right, one thousand million Shillings more).
The decision taken by our lawmakers arose from a deal struck with Deputy President Ruto last year in which MPs’ basic pay was cut but only on the agreement that they would get extra tax-free benefits such as a car grant, mileage allowances, pension payments and in particular, unlimited committee sessions.
TAKE A SEAT FOR MORE MONEY
The last point is important. The SRC had restricted MPs to a maximum of four committee sessions per week but now they can hold as many meetings as ‘they deem necessary’.
Why is that significant? Because the MPs earn tens of thousands of Shillings for each committee meeting they ‘sit’ at, so more meetings means more money – lots more money!
SH1 MILLION+ PER MONTH
How much more money are we talking about?
The deal will see the 416 Members of the National Assembly still earn a basic salary of Sh532,500 per month (not bad) but with the new increased perks their monthly take-home pay will be more than Sh1 million per month.
That’s not all. Our elected representatives will also receive Sh135,255 each month towards their pensions and a one-off Sh5 million grant towards buying cars (luxury of course) and travel allowances that could amount to Sh327,000 per month for each MP and Senator.
“WE NEED THE MONEY”
MPs and Senators have argued that they are desperately in need of the extra money because they have to provide so much charitable support to their constituents. (You’re a constituent – had much charitable support lately?)
The cost to the Kenyan taxpayers will be Sh4.12 billion in the financial year to June 2015, up from Sh3.19 billion for the year before.
At least this latest move by Kenya’s elect allows the Kenya Forum to make a cross-party statement: to quote William Shakespeare, “A plague on both your houses!” (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1).