Considering that our MPs are some of the highest paid in the world it’s ludicrous that anyone, let alone the Speaker of House, would suggest that the salaries of MPs should be reviewed upwards. Ignoring the country’s public debt, fiscal deficit, inability to honor agreements made with teachers and doctors on pay raises, the House Speaker, Kenneth Marende, did just that.
The Speaker argued that despite a significant increase parliamentarian’s workload in last 7 years, MPs salaries have not been reviewed since 2003, “when the monthly salary of MPs rose to 200,000 shillings, with allowances of 651,000 shillings.” The Speaker then went on to argue the importance of “adequately remunerating Members of Parliament towards a reasonable standard of living commensurate with their role and the weight of their responsibilities.” Stating that MPs salaries were low as compared to other state officers i.e. commissioners and ministers who earn upwards of a million shillings the Speaker also warned against the downward review of MPs salaries.
No one would argue that MPs should be adequately remunerated for the services that the give. However I’m sure that many would query what constitutes adequate remuneration in the case of MPs, and who and what determines adequate remuneration?
At present we have 220 MPs earning a salary of 851,000 shillings each per month. This means parliamentarians cost taxpayers approximately 200 million shillings a month, and more than 2 billion shillings per year, excluding benefits, work related expenses and other perks of the job. Considering that the next House may have 350+ members, the total the cost of MPs to the taxpayer through the roof.
Ask any Kenyan whether they think that Members of Parliament earn too much? Whether the amount that MPs earn is commensurate to the services that they render? And whether the salaries of MPs should be cut? And their answers are likely to be very different from the Speaker’s.
In the former dispensation parliamentarians determined for themselves what constituted adequate remuneration for their services, so its no wonder we ended up with some of the highest paid parliamentarians in the world. Fortunately in the new dispensation this will no longer be the case. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission will be setting the salaries of State officers including the President and other members of Cabinet, MPs, members of county assemblies, county governors, judges and magistrates, members of commissions and principal secretaries. The Commission will so be making recommendations on the remuneration of other public officials.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission already raised the issue of the sustainability of salaries of MPs at the current rate. Earlier in the year Salaries and Remuneration Commission made an announcement that it would be looking into cutting salaries of Members of Parliament come the next general election, as the cost of the salaries of Members in the expanded house would be unsustainable. A move that will be I’m sure will be welcome by most Kenyans. As for the argument that MPs earn less than other state officers, maybe during the harmonisation of the salaries of state officers and public servants, the salaries of these state officers should also be reviewed downward; and the salaries of doctors and teachers be reviewed upward.