Salaries commission right on MPs’ pay

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DANN MWANGI

In the recent weeks, we have seen incessant demand for salary increase by newly elected leaders and especially Members of Parliament.

Some have even threatened to push for disbandment of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission for slashing their salaries and allowances. A section of governors have not been left behind in the clamour for salary increase.

However, a few of them, like Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, have openly stated that salary increases are untenable and what matters now is for the elected leaders to begin implementing their promises to the electorates.
These calls are a sharp contrast to what other leaders of stronger economies than Kenya are doing.

The calls are only a remainder of the insatiable greed for public coffers that our MPs have traditionally exhibited. In the US, a day after President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said they’d return five percent of their pay cheques to the Treasury, Secretary of State John Kerry, the richest Cabinet member, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew voluntarily followed suit.

Obviously, Kenyans are not happy at all with this demand for salary increase as the MPs have not even began to discharge their legislative duty and developmental agenda and yet they are demanding increase of salaries and allowances.

Above all, the excuses and justifications that the MPs peddle to push for this agenda are fundamentally flawed and purely selfish. For a fact, contesting for a position in a democratic state like Kenya is always voluntary, not forced and therefore if the much that the Kenyan coffers can offer MPs is what SRC has proposed, MPs have no option but to take it.

Failure to do so, they ought to resign but not to threaten SRC or burden our wage bill, which is over Sh425 billion and has doubled in the last five years. Currently, our wage bill is too high, almost half of our domestic revenue and cannot be overstretched just to please MPs.
With such a high wage bill, President Uhuru cannot fulfil meaningful development promises that he has made to Kenyans. In fact, the Kenyan economy will remain stagnant or grow by an insignificant trend as there will be no money to spur economic growth.

Further, stating that MPs spent a lot of money in campaigning and therefore they ought to have higher pay and allowances in order to recoup their money is not only baseless but a justification to use public position to unjustifiably enrich themselves.
In this regard, it would be vital for Kenyans to rally behind the SRC as they fulfil their constitutional and legal mandate it. Being a constitutional commission created under Article 248 (2) (h) of our Constitution, SRC has a duty under Article 249 of the Constitution to protect our sovereignty from being abused by the MPs and a section of governors.

Moreover, SRC must not succumb to threatens, blackmails and intimidation from MPs as being an independent commission, it’s only subject to the Constitution and the law and not MPs. Sections 11 and 12 of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission gives SRC the authority to advise on how public servants and officers should be paid. In fact, SRC only interacts with MPs and Senators through forwarding its annual financial report as per Section 254 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

Although MPs have a legal right, but an unacceptable, to demand for salary increase, they lack a moral right to demand for more pay and must be reminded that their calls to disband SRC will be fail. SRC cannot be disbanded at the whims of politicians. It is jealously guarded by Article 255 of the Constitution and perhaps this is because the drafters of our Constitution had foreseen attempts to disband such a critical commission.

Any efforts to disband the commission must be approved through a national referendum in which at least twenty per cent of the registered voters in each of at least half of the counties vote in such favour or a simple majority of the citizens voting in the referendum approve such a stand. The difficult nature of disbanding this commission is reinforced by both Article 256 (5) and 257 (10) of the Constitution as amendments brought through both the parliamentary and popular initiatives must face a referendum. Kenyans will largely not vote for approval of disbanding SRC. The removal of SRC commissioners is also not easy as elaborated in Article 251 of the Constitution and therefore rhetoric from MPs will not succeed.

Therefore, MPs must drop their clarion calls for salary increase or if they think that salary increase is a birth right, they should only request and do it with utmost respect to Kenyans but not threaten and blackmail SRC. Kenyans, and above all President Uhuru must also support SRC on this matter.

Mwangi is a lawyer dann@cps-research.com

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