, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 5 – Kenyan Members of Parliament remain the most highly paid in the region despite their insistence that they are among the least remunerated.
While they currently earn a gross pay of Sh851,000 inclusive of salaries and allowances per month, their Ugandan counterparts receive Sh610,500 while Tanzanian legislators remain moderate earning an average of Sh430,000.
Parliamentarians in the developed world would also envy Kenyan MPs.
According to the Guardian newspaper, an MP in France earns an equivalent of Sh526,000, Italy’s Sh550,000 while the Swedes earn Sh580,000 despite boasting bigger economies compared to Kenya.
The British, American and Australian legislators rank amongst the highest paid with Sh2.1 million, Sh1.2 million and Sh770,000 respectively. They also enjoy undisclosed claims in allowances.
Kenyan MPs last week adopted a report to raise their salaries to Sh1.2 million per month before agreeing to pay tax on their hefty allowances.
“This new proposals seek to restore honour to the profession of politics,” said Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale while defending the new perks in Parliament last week.
Livestock Development Assistant Minister Adan Duale said: “In my view the amount of money you pay an MP cannot adequately compensate the heavy responsibility he shoulders.”
However the question of MPs arbitrary increasing their perks is not limited to Kenya alone with Uganda and Tanzanian MPs too being notorious of this act. Civil society organisations and trade unionists continue to scoff at the self aggrandizement by the ‘honourable members.’
The controversy surrounding MPs’ salaries and allowances is not limited to the region. Last year, Britain was treated to revelations of outrageous claims of allowances from its legislators.
The UK’s Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was created to administer MPs\’ expenses independently in the wake of scandals when dozens of MPs were found to have made inappropriate expenses claims.
The proposal to raise the Kenyan MPs’ perks has continued to gather opposition in and out of the House. Co-operative Development and Marketing Minister, Joe Nyagah dismissed the proposed increases terming it as selfish. Mr Nyagah said parliamentary traditions do not allow the current Parliament to vote itself a salary increase.
“The Justice Akiwumi task force recommendations under the tradition cannot be used to benefit the current Parliament but the next one,” the Minister said.
He said given the pending constitutional referendum, it could be prudent to leave the new Constitution to address the matter.
“I don’t support any increment, especially at a time when the common man is suffering from the current economic crisis,” Mr Nyagah said.
Ol-Kalou MP Erastus Mureithi on his part said the move was ill advised. Mr Mureithi said that the move was untimely as many Kenyans were still wallowing in abject poverty.
“It is a big shame that a group of lawmakers went ahead and passed the Bill to have a salary increase while Kenyans are living in poverty. The move was wrong and came at the wrong time,” he said.
Kabando wa Kabando of Mukuruweini also opposed the proposal saying: “We need not have conspiratorial engagements, which display desperate appetites for insatiable power, causing irritating irrelevance instead of positioning patriotic parliament motions of objectivity and rationality.
Already, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have voiced their opposition to the plan.
Mr Kenyatta said the proposal could not be accommodated since it was not factored in the 2010-2011 Budget.
“This is clearly not sustainable and is inconsistent with our development objectives stated in Vision 2030,” said Mr Kenyatta.
He added: “The actions taken by Honourable Members are not supportive of these noble objectives because they will trigger demands for salary increment by other sectors.”
Mr Kenyatta feared that an increase in the earnings paid to the already well-salaried legislators would “consequently lead to a wage spiral, hence creating inflation and weakening our competitiveness.”