Posted on May 22, 2013

Kenya’s New MPs Demand More Money Before Even Taking Office

Mike Pflanz, Telegraph (London), April 5, 2013

Kenya’s new MPs want a pay rise before they have even taken office, protesting that their £51,000 salary is too low to live on in a country where the average income is less than £100 a month.

Local politicians have also joined the call for more cash, despite Kenya’s £3.5 billion public sector wage bill doubling in the last four years and now consuming half of domestic revenue.

MPs have complained that their salary, much of it tax-free, would not be enough to repay mortgages on new homes or loans on new cars to which they were now entitled.

The shortfall would be made up by officials taking bribes or managing businesses on the side, said Peter Munya, a newly-elected governor of a fertile county in central Kenya.

“MPs may even not be able to pay staff or even buy them tea in the office,” he said.

“So you will find them running around doing other private businesses to meet their needs because what they earn cannot sustain them. Pay them well so that they can be able to do legislative work. That’s all we are asking.”

Kenya’s MPs were among the world’s best paid before a national commission earlier this year ordered their salaries cut to £51,000 from £82,000, which was 30 per cent more than a British backbencher earns.

In response, legislators in the outgoing parliament voted themselves a £17 million bonus to be paid when they left office.

Candidates standing for office in last month’s elections knew the amended rates, yet their first order of business after they are sworn in on April 16 is likely to be an attempt to overturn the income cut.

On at least three occasions since 2003, MPs have hiked their salaries significantly beyond Kenya’s base inflation rate.

Often pay review legislation sweeps through the county’s parliament in a fraction of the time it takes other laws to pass.

“It’s pretty hard to stomach, they’ve not even started work yet and already they are showing the usual signs of extreme greed,” said Daniel Ooko, a computer technician in Kericho in western Kenya.

“We all queued for hours to vote for new MPs who would change this country. What we see we have chosen is the same old system. Truly there can be no change in Kenya.”

MPs argue that they are forced to pay to cover constituents’ demands, including hospital bills, funeral expenses and school fees.

Shuttling between their upcountry homes and parliamentary sittings in Nairobi costs large amounts of money, and entertainment and loan repayments consumes more again, they say.

An earlier independent pay inquiry by Akilano Akiwumi, a former appeal court judge, suggested this was true.

More than half of Kenya’s MPs were left with take-home pay of less than £800 a month, the report found.