Huge house allowances for State officers are unjustified

William Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua 

President William Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during the National Prayer Breakfast on May 31, 2024 at Safari Park Hotel.

Photo credit: PCS

What you need to know:

  • For the first time in the history of our country, MPs and Senators have refused to accept a pay rise.
  • The President should dubious payments in his salary such as the house allowance scrapped off. 

Looking at the gazette notice by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission circulated on the proposed increase of State officers’ pay leaves one with more questions than answers on the ingenuity of the government in reducing the public wage bill as promised by the President. 

More intriguing, however, is how suddenly the State officers put up of an act of refusing the proposed increase of their salaries. 

I must congratulate Gen Zs for raising their voices against public wastage. For the first time in the history of our country, we have Members of Parliament and the Senate refusing a salary increase! 

But that’s beside the point. 

My interest was drawn to some of the items outlined in the components of the salaries of the State officers, more so the house allowance for the President at Sh350,000 and Sh300,000 the Deputy President. 

The question which arises then is why would the President and the Deputy President be paid a house allowance yet they are provided with residences and/ or houses? Is it that they are not bound by the Employment Act? Is it that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission does not know the provisions of the Employment Act? 

Official residence of the President

A look at the Employment Act shows that only members of the armed forces, Kenya Police Service, Kenya Prisons Service and the National Youth Service are exempted.

Consequently, other State officers, as defined under Article 260 of the Constitution, including the President and the Deputy President are not exempted from the Employment Act.

Under section 31 of the Employment Act, an employer is only bound to pay an employee a house allowance where they do not provide the employee with a reasonable housing accommodation. 

However, for the President and the Deputy President, they are both provided with houses being State House as the official residence of the President and there is an official residence for the Deputy President.

It is, therefore, lost on this writer as to why the President and the Deputy President should be paid a house allowance on top of being given a house. 

Secondly, be it as it may, even where an employee is entitled to a house allowance, the Regulation of Wages (General) (Amendment) Order caps the same at 15 percent of the employee’s basic salary. 

Dubious payments

Consequently, were the President and Deputy President entitled to a house allowance, the same should be capped at 15 per cent of their basic salary resulting in a house allowance of Sh129,937.50 per month for the President compared to Sh350,000 actually paid and Sh110,446.95 for the Deputy President compared to Sh300,000. 

For the Cabinet Secretaries, Attorney-General, Head of Public Service and the Secretary to the Cabinet the house allowance should be capped at Sh86,130 in place of Sh200,000 paid out every month.

The scrapping off of the illegal President and Deputy President’s house allowances would cut the wage bill by Sh650,000 per month. 

A drop in the ocean you might say, but the amount can be used to employ at least six youths who are paid Sh100,000 per month, and that is on the higher side.

This is besides the overpaid house allowances for other State officers including Members of Parliament and staff in county government. 

As the President calls for reduction in spending and wastage of public funds, he should start from inwards going outwards by first having dubious payments in his salary such as the house allowance scrapped off. 

Wacuka Kihenjo is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya