The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has finally abolished car grants and sitting allowances for Members of Parliament, Senators and Members of County Assemblies.
This has been long in coming, not for lack of commitment on the part of SRC, but because of the legal obstacles that have been strewn on its path. The 11th and 12th parliaments, especially, were a thorn in the flesh of SRC.
In 2015, SRC commenced a re-evaluation of the Public Service and presented its report to Parliament in 2016. The report that SRC presented in 2016, among other things, proposed a cap on the number of sittings that MPS, MCAs and the Judicial Service Commission had in any given month to tame a runaway wage bill. Not surprisingly, MPs and JSC went to the High Court where SRC's decision was later annulled.
Besides a car loan of Sh7 million, MPs also get a grant of Sh5 million and a monthly salary of over Sh600,000. Additionally, they get a fixed car maintenance allowance of Sh325,000 and mileage allowance. By any measure, it is ridiculous to pay elected leaders sitting allowances for work they were elected to do.
When SRC started pushing for a cut in allowances paid to civil servants last year, it proposed that such allowances should not exceed 40 per cent of gross pay, which makes sense. From a wage bill of Sh439 billion in 2012/2013, Kenya’s wage bill stood at Sh827 billion in 2019/2020 financial year. This is unacceptable because ordinary Kenyans who shoulder this burden have had enough.
SRC should be applauded for putting into practice the 2020 Act of Parliament that charged it with the responsibility of harmonising salaries and reviewing remuneration and other benefits for civil servants.
Importantly, the power of legislators to determine their own pay and perks should be taken away. SRC’s decision must not only be implemented, but it should also be facilitated to do its work. The need to save money to resuscitate an economy battered by Covid-19 cannot be gainsaid. With massive job losses and company closures brought about by Covid-19, Kenyans are a suffering lot, and leaders should not add to their burden.