Pay ruling reverses SRC bid to contain wage bill

Lyn Mengich SRC chairperson addressing delegates at white sands hotel in Mombasa County during institute of human Resource Management conference. [Photo/Mkamburi Mwawasi/Standard].

The High Court ruling that excluded salaries of governors, MPs and Members of the County Assembly from the control of the salaries commission, has dealt a blow to efforts to manage the ballooning wage bill. The Judiciary had resisted a similar regulation.

By nullifying two gazette notices by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) that had details of pay cuts and scrapped numerous allowances for MPs, MCAs and governors, it could mark a return to an era of arbitrary pay increments that were to blame for the spiraling wage bill, the same problem that informed creation of the SRC. 

The court’s decision, in particular, will embolden MPs, who are clamouring for higher perks under a controversial Bill before the National Assembly that even President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed not to sign into law should it be passed by the House.

The SRC’s reduction of perks for State and public officers was meant to enable Government to save Sh8 billion annually.

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The wage bill stands at Sh627 billion per year, according to SRC, accounting for almost 50 per cent of revenue, coupled with the growing public debt and pension liability.

High Court Judge George Odunga reinstated the Senate and National Assembly members’ pay reduced by the commission as well as their sitting allowance for plenary sessions, mileage and the special parliamentary allowances.

Justice Odunga quashed the gazette notices, which means the status quo remains and said “It’s now upon the SRC to decide how to continue from there.”

With the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Parliament Service Commission (PSC) out of the SRC control, only the Public Service Commission remains under the SRC’s regulation.

Members of the County Assembly have recovered their Sh1.5 billion lost in allowances and wages following the SRC Gazette Notice No 6518 of July 7, last year now quashed by Odunga.

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An MCA’s gross salary stood at Sh144,375, a significant reduction from Sh165,000 and benefits saw the average monthly sitting allowance paid to the 2,200 MCAs in 12 months drop by more than half.

With the benefits abolished, MCAs took home an average of Sh54,068 each month, down from Sh113,636 in the previous assemblies.

The committee sitting allowances capped at Sh80,000 per month for chairpersons of committees will now be at a maximum of Sh208,000, while committee members’ sitting allowances that was set at Sh48,000 per month has reverted to Sh124,800.

The deputy chairs committee will now earn up to Sh166,400 in sitting allowance compared to the current Sh48,000.

County assemblies spent Sh670.1 million on MCAs committee sitting allowances in the 2017/2018 financial year, against an approved budget allocation of Sh2.7 billion.

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Just like MCAs, Odunga nullified the SRC’s Gazette Notice No 6517 that reduced pay for senators, MPs and Women Representatives to Sh621,250 compared to Sh710,000 they had been earning in the 11th Parliament.

Senate and National Assembly speakers, whose perks were also affected, will now get Sh1.32 million. The SRC had reduced it to Sh1.15 million.

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