By Geoffrey Mosoku and Cyrus Ombati
Nairobi, Kenya: There is confusion and unease in the military after soldiers noticed a significant change in this month’s salaries as indicated on their payslips.
The Standard has established that their pay was less by an average Sh10,000 following the exclusion of food and laundry allowances that they have enjoyed for some time.
Commissioned officers and soldiers from the Air Force, Army and Navy received payslips that indicated only basic allowances.
The soldiers normally receive Sh9,500 as ‘gas’ or food allowance, while an additional Sh2,000 and Sh500 is paid out to women and men respectively as laundry allowance.
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Soldiers who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, because military protocol does not allow them to comment publicly on the matter, said the change follows implementation by Kenya Revenue Authority of a requirement that even State officers pay tax on allowances.
Military officials, however, played down the concerns with Department of Defence (DoD) Spokesman Bogita Ongeri saying there was no discontent in the military’s rank and file.
Mr Ongeri said whereas the pay had not been slashed, there were alterations in the payslips of all Kenya Defence Forces officials that he attributed to the separation of ‘vote items’.
“This is a matter of separating the vote items in the payslip to distinguish between those for allowances and that for salary. That has been explained to the officers,” he added.
Ongeri explained that the two votes were facilitative allowance and salary. But multiple soldiers interviewed said the second vote is not reflected in their payslip.
Ongeri said unlike other disciplines and workers, soldiers first receive the slips before the salary is credited to their bank accounts. “They will get their money by tomorrow in the accounts. It’s only those who are on leave who have not been told what is happening,” Ongeri added.
And the Chief of Defence Forces Gen Julius Karangi told The Standard no money had been deducted.
“There is nothing like that. It has not been deducted and their money is safe. Just tell them that,” a firm Karangi said.
He sought to assure that all was well in the military, and that they are determined to ensure the country is safe all the time.
Although the military is not exempt from paying tax, most of their allowances are not taxed, particularly those paid to officers serving in United Nations or African Union missions. The development, The Standard learnt, has angered both juniors and seniors and they are demanding an explanation from their seniors.
“These are the privileges that we have been enjoying, but can now not get an explanation on how the decision was reached,” said a soldier who asked not to be named.
Most of those interviewed but who cannot be quoted said this was the first time that the State was taking away their allowances.
Another source at the DoD who sought anonymity said the military payment system was structured in a way that when changes are made to an entry for an allowance, for example, it affects all serving officers.
The DoD and the Treasury are said to be working on a system to separate the allowances paid for soldiers on peacekeeping missions from the rest to avoid disagreements with its international partners, but allow taxing of allowances paid by Kenyan taxpayers.
More than 3,000 military personnel are currently serving in the African Mission for Somalia (Amisom) in Somalia under the United Nations. There are others who are also in UN missions across the continent and abroad.