State keen to clip SRC wings in bid to control MPs, judges allowances

Parliament Sitting

Members of the National Assembly during a past sitting in Nairobi.  

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The proposed law seeks to bar SRC from determining the local and foreign daily subsistence allowances and transport payments for MPs and judges.
  • If passed, other State and public officers could push for enhanced remuneration.

The government has proposed a law that will bar the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) from determining the local and foreign daily subsistence allowances (DSAs) and transport payments for MPs and judges.

The government-sponsored Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill 2023 seeks to remove that power from SRC and hand it to the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) .

The omnibus Bill signed by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah specifically wants sections 3, 5 and 18 of the Parliamentary Service Act of 2019 amended as it proposes new section 13A under the Judicial Service Act of 2011.

If passed, nothing will stop other cadres of State and public officers such as governors, their deputies and MCAs, from pushing for enhanced remuneration.

Also proposed under section 18 of the Parliamentary Service Act, is a new subsection 3 that gives the PSC the powers to review and determine the rates of reimbursement for travel for MPs “in accordance with the international best practice.”

Article 172 (1) (b) of the Constitution states that JSC shall promote and facilitate the independence and accountability of the judiciary and the efficient, effective and transparent administration of justice. The JSC is chaired by the Chief Justice, who is the president of the Supreme Court.

The Article goes on to say that JSC shall review and make recommendations on the conditions of service of judges and judicial officers other than their remuneration and the staff of the judiciary.

Whether the proposed changes go against the mandate of SRC as established in the constitution is a matter for the courts to determine.

Article 230 (1) of the constitution establishes SRC. It states in part five that, in performing its functions, the SRC shall take into account the need to ensure that the total public compensation wage bill is fiscally sustainable.

The payment of DSA is meant to facilitate public officers to attend official assignments away from their duty stations within and out of the country. The SRC gazette notice of July 27, 2022, which came into force on August 23, 2022, contains the DSA rates for local and foreign travel, which are standardised and paid according to the job groups of State and public officers.

The highest ranked is job groups U-V, with the job evaluation grade of E4-E5 and includes Speakers, MPs and clerks of the two Houses, judges, judicial officers, who are entitled to Sh18,200 per day when in all cities, county headquarters and all other towns within the republic.

“DSA shall not be payable for locations that are within a 50km radius of respective duty stations of the officers affected,” SRC has previously warned.

Previously, MPs and other state officers used to earn higher DSAs for local and foreign travels before the SRC slashed them.

State officers in the job group similar to MPs are paid up to $658 a day while on a working tour in the US, $720 in Canada, $771 in UK, $838 in Germany and Russia $862. In Switzerland and Japan they earn $1,010, $1,179; in Singapore, $1,056; Kuwait, $1,132; Iraq, $724; France, $469; South Africa, $724; Nigeria, $615; Uganda, $603;Tanzania, $535; Rwanda, 504; Burundi, $736, $434; Somalia and Cameroon $600.

These rates are now likely to go up with the proposed changes.

While appearing before the National Assembly Labour Committee on November 6, SRC Chairperson Lyn Mengich said the commission has, since its inception, helped the country reduce its wage bill from 51 per cent to 43 per cent of the revenue collected in a year.

The reduction in the wage bill, according to Ms Mengich, has seen the government save at least Sh70 billion a year.

The Public Finance Management Regulations of 2015, provide for a wage bill of up to 35 per cent of ordinary revenue and a wage bill to gross domestic product of 7.5 per cent from the current 8.1 per cent in line with average for developing countries.

The proposed changes to the laws come at a time when the SRC is in the process of reviewing the existing local DSAs for State officers and other civil servants as per the August 7circular to government accounting officers.

This means that, if the Bill becomes law, the millions of shillings SRC will have spent in the ongoing review of DSA for local travel of public sector employees will have gone to waste.

The Bill further quotes Article 252 (1) (d) of the Constitution, which states that each commission and each holder of an independent office may perform any function and exercise any powers prescribed by legislation, in addition to the functions and powers conferred by “this Constitution.”

The Bill seeks to delete section 3 (a) under the “object and purpose of this Act”. The proposed new section reads “the Act shall specify further functions that may be performed and powers that may be exercised by the commission” in line with the Constitution.