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Top CEOs in Kenya pocketed Sh1.8b in perks during Covid-19

By Dominic Omondi | August 3rd 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic that crippled the markets and devastated economies for the better part of last year barely touched the perks of Kenya’s top executives.

A compilation of data from the country’s 17 most valuable companies by Financial Standard shows that the CEOs collectively pocketed Sh1.84 billion in perks last year even as the pandemic wiped out billions of shillings in profits from the companies.

This was a drop of Sh74.8 million from the Sh1.91 billion earned in the previous year.

Co-operative Bank of Kenya Chief Executive Gideon Muriuki was the highest-paid last year, taking home Sh377.3 million in salaries and allowances, a slight drop from the Sh384.5 million that he pocketed in 2019.

The lender in its 2020 annual report attributed this to the implementation of “a performance-based bonus reward system” that is applicable to all staff.

With the bonus reward system, an individual employee’s salary is reviewed for the year with the bonus award directly linked to the attainment of profitability performance targets for the period.

Muriuki, who is also a shareholder of the bank also shared in the dividend payout that was declared by Kenya’s third-largest lender. He had both the highest basic salary and allowances among the 17 companies that the Financial Standard analysed.  

Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi was the second-highest earner, taking home Sh278.5 million after he received a one-off gratuity of Sh194.6 million.

Total income

Safaricom, Kenya’s most profitable company, however, was not as generous to its CEO, with Peter Ngegwa who took home Sh201.5 million in his first year at the helm of the telecommunications giant. 

His predecessor, the late Bob Collymore, had earned Sh200.95 million in the previous financial calendar ending March 2020.

Andrew Cowan, who has since been replaced as the CEO of East Africa Breweries, was the fourth-highest earner, pocketing Sh151.7 million in the year ending June 2020.

Cowan, who was replaced starting January by Jane Karuku, had taken home Sh115.7 million in the previous year.

KCB’s Joshua Oigara opted to forego his bonuses, a situation that saw him drop three places to sit in the fifth position with a total income of Sh116.2 million.  

In the previous year, the CEO of Kenya’s largest bank by asset size took home Sh299.1 million and was the second-highest top executive earner.

Benson Wairegi, who left Britam after close to 40 years at the corner office of the insurance giant, took home Sh95.9 million, an increase from Sh65.2 million that he earned in salary and allowances in 2019.

ABSA Kenya’s Jeremy Awori also saw his allowances slashed last year, taking home Sh93.2 million last year compared to Sh115.5 million in the previous year.

Standard Chartered’s Kariuki Ngare earned Sh93.2 million, while NCBA’s John Gachora took home Sh81.5 million, and Nasim Devji of DTB Bank Sh63 million.

Despite the raging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the economy, these CEOs raked in Sh945.4 million in allowances and Sh896.8 million in basic salary.

In the previous period, these companies spent Sh1.02 billion on allowances and Sh898.7 million on basic salaries.

These companies are listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, and most of them recorded reduced profits last year due to the adverse effects of the pandemic.

As a result, their share prices at the bourse fell as jittery investors evacuated their money from the equities market.

For some such as Kenya Airways, there seems to be a different story from the one the troubled airline fed the public extensive pay cuts for the top management, with the national carrier’s CEO Allan Kilavuka getting Sh40.5 million compared to Sh40.06 that his predecessor Sebastian Mikosz received a year earlier as per the accounts.

The airline explained that the annual report had not been adjusted to reflect the salary cuts.

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