MCAs sitting perks double to Sh1.5bn

Friday July 12 2019

Agnes Odhiambo

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

GEORGE OMONDI
By GEORGE OMONDI
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Members of County Assembly (MCAs) sitting allowance for the nine months to March more than doubled to Sh1.54 billion after the High Court scrapped the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s (SRC) cut on State officers’ benefits.

The latest Controller of Budget (CoB) report shows the perks rose 131 percent — the highest jump since the onset of Devolution in 2013 — from the Sh670 million the 2,247 MCAs earned in similar period a year earlier.

The SRC in July 2017 abolished MCAs’ mileage reimbursements, sitting allowances for plenary sessions and special responsibility perks.

But the High Court last year reinstated the benefits, forcing the SRC to return the cap on sitting allowances to Sh124, 800 monthly from Sh80,000.

On average, an MCA’s sitting allowance for the nine months to March rose to Sh76,955 from the mean of Sh33,136 they earned in a similar period when the SRC pay limits were in force.

The allowances had been on a steady upward trajectory since the representatives took office in May 2013, causing concern that the perks were consuming county government revenues with minimal corresponding impact on public service.

In the nine months to March 2015, the ward representatives earned Sh2 billion in sitting perks.

High Court judge George Odunga delivered a judgment that quashed a gazette notice that the SRC used to cut each MCAs’ allowances to a maximum of Sh80,000 per month.

Justice Odunga said the SRC had failed to study the labour market and conduct a comprehensive job evaluation one year before the pay review as required by the law.

The ruling allowed counties to revert to SRC rates that allow each MCA to pocket a maximum of Sh124,800 a month in sitting perks

“Garissa and Tana River County Assemblies reported a higher expenditure on committee sitting allowance than the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) recommended monthly ceiling of Sh124, 800,” said the budget office.

“Migori County Assembly reported an expenditure of Sh38, 704,900 without a budget allocation for this expenditure in the Approved Budget.”

Garissa and Tana River MCAs led the allowances gravy train in the review period with each pocketing Sh125,381 and Sh183, 832 monthly respectively.

This is in comparison to their more frugal counterparts in Lamu at Sh28,483, Turkana (Sh31,641) and Machakos where they earned Sh37, 378 a month.

The SRC, which sets salaries for public servants, unveiled the 2017-2022 pay structure, which replaced the previous one, slashing MCAs pay from Sh165,000 to Sh144,375 a month.

Sitting and mileage allowances for MCAs and MPs were abolished as part of efforts to tame the bloated wage bill, currently accounting for half of the government’s tax revenues.