Revealed: MPs have enjoyed over 30 percent pay rise in last five years
As MCAs join Members of Parliament in pushing for a pay rise, an analysis of official reports shows lawmakers have consistently secured generous increments while salaries of other workers grow at a snail’s pace.
For instance, the salary of an unskilled agricultural worker – the lowest cadre in Kenya’s formal employment – increased by a mere Sh808 to Sh7,544 over the five years to 2022, as MPs in the same period got a 33 per cent increment in basic salary.
This was after the government last year raised the minimum wage by 12 per cent, before which the workers had earned a stagnated monthly pay of Sh6,736 since 2018. On the other hand, an MP’s gross salary, excluding allowances, increased by Sh177,500 over the same period, from Sh532,500 in the first year of the 12th Parliament to Sh710,000 by 2022. And the lawmakers still want more.
Their push for more pay is in the context of an economy marked by huge inequalities and a clear disparity in workers’ remuneration trends for different categories, with low earners disadvantaged.
A review of data from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that while low-cadre workers’ salaries have barely changed over the past five years, those of MPs rose consistently.
The minimum wage, for instance, recorded the first growth in five years last year. Following the increment, the minimum wage for a general labourer (cleaner, sweeper, gardener, messenger, house servant) increased from Sh13,572 where it had been stuck since 2018 to Sh15,201 for workers in Nairobi, from Sh12,522 to Sh14,025 for workers in former municipalities and from Sh7,240 to Sh8,109 for workers in all other areas.
The monthly minimum wage for a night watchman was also raised from Sh15,141 where it had stagnated for four years to Sh16,959- a Sh1,818 increase in five years.
The International Labour Organisation defines minimum wage as “the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by collective agreement or an individual contract”.
Steady salary growth
On the other hand, MPs have however enjoyed a steady salary growth from the 12th Parliament – from Sh532,500, which rose to Sh576,875 in the second year, Sh621,250 in the third year, Sh665,625 in the second last year and Sh710,000 in the fifth year.
“MP and other parliamentary state officers shall join the remuneration structure at the minimum point and progress to the maximum over the term period,” SRC stated in the 2013 gazette notice that set MPs' remuneration for the two consecutive parliaments.
In setting salaries for the current MPs, the SRC set their starting salary at Sh710,000, equivalent to the amount MPs in the 12th parliament earned in their final year. SRC in the gazette notice issued July 27, 2022, set MPs’ basic salary at Sh426,000, house allowance at Sh150,000 and salary market adjustment at Sh134,000. It, however, scrapped the Sh5,000 plenary sitting allowance.
Among other benefits current MPs enjoy are committee sitting allowances of Sh7,500 (capped at a maximum of Sh120,000 monthly), a car maintenance allowance of Sh356,525 and a Sh116.63 per kilometre mileage claim (capped at a maximum of Sh353,778 monthly). SRC also enhanced MPs’ airtime allowance from Sh10,000 to Sh15,000.
If an MP, thus, makes maximum use of the other cash benefits, he or she would take home over Sh1.5 million monthly. Such an MP would therefore earn more than 200 times what the unskilled agricultural worker would make.
While the commission in the latest review did not set salaries for the entire term, it said: “For the period 2023/24 to 2024/25, SRC shall set the remuneration and benefits on or before the commencement of 2023/24FY.” This means there will be another upward review before July.
Just after recent elections, MPs began pushing for the reinstatement of the plenary sitting allowances, with National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula saying they had initiated talks with SRC.
MPs have always attempted to overrule SRC on setting their salaries, often ending up in court. The High Court in 2014 warned Parliament against treating other constitutional bodies as lesser when it attempted to revoke a gazette notice by SRC in 2013.
“Parliament cannot and must not be allowed to run roughshod over other constitutional organs. Allowing Parliament to do as it pleases will sooner rather than later lead to a breakdown of law and order,” then High Court judges Isaac Lenaola, Mumbi Ngugi and Weldon Korir stated in the January 31, 2014 judgment.
Other top state officers such as governors will continue to earn a monthly salary of Sh924,000 as they have before, with a Sh20,000 monthly airtime allowance.
SRC also maintained salaries of MCAs at Sh144,375, constituting a basic salary of Sh86,625, a house allowance of Sh45,000 and a salary market adjustment of Sh12,750.
Other benefits that MCAs are entitled to include a Sh3,900 committee sitting allowance (capped at Sh62,400 monthly), mileage claims ranging between Sh30,167 and Sh147,481, a car maintenance allowance of Sh30,167 and a Sh5,000 airtime allowance.
MCAs have, however, always breached the law and earned more allowances than legally stipulated. In the nine months to March 2022, for instance, those in Migori County pocketed average monthly sitting allowances of Sh167,194, Nyamira’s Sh120,053 and Busia’s Sh114,211.
“MPs get 43 per cent of the salary of the Head of State while on the other hand, MCAs get 16 per cent of the governor’s salary. It is time we stop this blatant discrimination and violation of the rules of equity,” County Assemblies Forum chairperson Philemon Sabulei told the Nation in November as they submitted their new pay proposals.
The State Department for Labour, in its 2018-2022 strategic plan observed that the lack of a comprehensive wages and remuneration policy is partly to blame for the existing disparities.