Parliamentarians are pushing for the reinstatement of their plenary sitting allowance in a move that could cost taxpayers an extra Sh8.2 billion over the next five years. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) had, on July 28 this year, just before the General Election, published a Kenya Gazette notice abolishing the allowance on the plausible argument that plenary sittings constitute the lawmakers’ core duty and an allowance for the same would, therefore, amount to double compensation.
But in the notice, SRC introduced a Sh150,000 house allowance which, coupled with a Sh426,000 basic pay and Sh134,000 in salary market adjustment, effectively moved the lawmakers to a higher job group—at a salary of Sh710,000.
The scrapping of the allowance was not an arbitrary move but part of a well-reasoned plan to ensure equal pay for equal work and making public service salaries commensurate with the expected input. By pushing for a review of their perks, the MPs are likely to distort the entire public service pay structure.
If they are allowed to pocket the Sh5,000 that the 416 members of the 11th and 12th Parliament took home, the MPs would pocket a monthly salary of Sh1.2 million, more than what Court of Appeal judges earn (Sh1,156,108), yet the latter are a rung higher in the state officers’ job grading.
The MPs’ quest for higher pay is not only ill-timed, it also borders on insensitivity. For not only does it interfere with the constitutional mandate of the SRC, in whose purview it is to review and set remuneration for state officers and other public officials, but it also flies in the face of the austerity measures the rest of the country has to contend with due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ballooning public debt and the political and economic uncertainty that surrounded the highly contested August 9 General Election.
The MPs’ move sends the wrong signal at a time when Kenyans are coming to terms with the scrapping of the fuel and unga subsidies, among other pointers to economic hardship. SRC must stand its ground and ensure the salary structures it sets are respected by everyone within their jurisdiction.