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Fury over report on MCAs’ high allowances

Wednesday October 16 2019

County Assemblies Forum chairman Ndegwa Wahome

From left: County Assemblies Forum chairman Ndegwa Wahome, Secretary-General Kipkurui Chepkwony and his deputy Rebah Wabwile addressing journalists in Nairobi on September 18, when they announced that they had suspended debate on the Punguza Mizigo Bill to allow for public participation. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

IBRAHIM ORUKO
By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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BRIAN OKINDA
By BRIAN OKINDA
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Some members of county assemblies are earning up to three times their salaries through hefty allowances, provoking outrage from Kenyans.

Data from the Office of the Controller of Budget shows that Narok County spent an average of Sh765,639 per MCA, up from ShSh328,757.

It was followed closely by Taita-Taveta, which spent Sh722,292 on ward reps a month.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) on Tuesday condemned the MCAs, saying that while a court decision gave them a blank cheque, their conscience should tell them what they are doing is not right.

ILLEGAL

While acknowledging that the payments are not illegal, SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich challenged those in leadership to approach governance seriously and consider whether it is right to earn that kind of money.

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“A responsible leadership should have a conscience and view leadership seriously,” she told the Nation. “They should be convinced that they are doing the right thing.”

Ms Mengich spoke against the backdrop of increasing anger as civil society groups said MCAs are only thinking about themselves. In a statement, the national coordinator of the National Civil Society Congress (NCSC), Mr Churchill Suba, accused the leaders of using their positions as an avenue to enrich themselves.

“It is unfortunate and shocking that what Kenyans bestowed on the leaders is now being undermined by the same leaders and used against the wishes of the Kenyans,” he said. “We expected MCAs to stick to the salary rates proposed by the SRC but now they are demanding more.”

AVERAGE SALARIES

A report from the Office of the Controller of Budget shows that the ward reps’ average monthly benefits have, for the first time since 2013, crossed theSh500,000 mark.

It shows that their average salaries, allowances and benefits rose to Sh547,146 in the year to June 2019, up from Sh451,827 for the same period the previous year, a 21 per cent increase. This might explain why the job has become more attractive.

Ms Mengich said MCAs were able to increase their benefits after the High Court annulled a circular issued by the commission in 2017 in which it reviewed State officers salaries, which were then published in a gazette notice on July 7 the same year.

The circular saw the monthly gross remuneration package for State officers in county governments reviewed downwards and a host of allowances abolished.

The allowances included those for governors and their deputies, reimbursable mileage, sitting allowance for plenary sessions and special responsibility allowance.

The review also introduced payment of a fixed salary rather than periodic increments while payment of transport allowance was divided into four.

TRANSPORT ALLOWANCE

As a result, MCAs were to be paid a fixed monthly transport allowance through the payroll, ending the practice of mileage claims, which was replaced with a zoned transport allowance.

The annulment of the circular has also affected members of Parliament, who are now earning the same allowances they earned in 2013 before the review.

The matter is still pending in court after the commission filed a notice of appeal in the Court of Appeal. Ms Mengich said: “There is nothing we can do … and there is nothing illegal about what they are taking home. The MCAs have the authority of the court,” she said.

Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo said the only way out is for the SRC to reinstate controls on the allowances.

“It is not the salaries but the many uncontrolled allowances the MCAs are enjoying that should be controlled,” he said.

Mr Suba of the NCSC said the situation should be addressed, given that devolution was intended to improve the lives of communities and not benefit a few individuals.

Mr Steven Mutoro, the secretary-general of the Consumers Federation of Kenya, said the position of MCA is virtually an investment that makes no economic sense. He added that ward reps’ salaries are not only distasteful but also unsustainable for counties and the national government.