To pay or not, that’s the question

Wednesday August 27 2008

Mrs Ida Odinga, wife of Prime Minister Raila

Mrs Ida Odinga, wife of Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/FILE 

By BENJAMIN MUINDI

Those who should know are pleading ignorance, even as public debate rages over a plan to pay leaders’ wives.

Mrs Ida Odinga, wife of Prime Minister Raila

Mrs Ida Odinga, wife of Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/FILE
Acting Finance minister John Michuki has pleaded ignorance over the Government decision to pay Sh400,000 monthly allowances to the spouses of the Prime Minister and the Vice President.

Mrs Ida Odinga, wife of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, also claims to be unaware about the windfall coming her way.

Another would-be beneficiary, Mrs Pauline Kalonzo, wife of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, has been unreachable for comment. She earns another sum from the public payroll as an employee of the Central Bank of Kenya.

The proposal that has provoked public comment came into the open last week when word leaked out that the V-P’s wife had been put on the public payroll. 

First Lady, Lucy Kibaki. Photo/FILE

First Lady, Lucy Kibaki. Photo/FILE

A few days later, it transpired that the PM’s wife was also on the same programme.

The decision was communicated in an August 8 letter from Public Service head Francis Muthaura to the Permanent Secretaries in both offices of the Vice President and the Prime Minister.

Both were asked to liaise with the Finance PS Joseph Kinyua to effect the payments. The payments were backdated by a month to take effect form the beginning of July.

In addition to the monthly rate, the two would benefit from other allowances at the rate applicable to senior civil servants when they travel or perform official duties.

Mrs Odinga and Mrs Kalonzo join First Lady Lucy Kibaki, who earns Sh500,000 per month, as the only people in Kenya to earn government allowances by virtue of spousal relationship.

The two letters from Mr Muthaura read in part: “The Government has taken cognisance of the critical role of the spouses of the VP and PM in projecting a positive image of our nation’s family values.”

Paying direct allowances to spouses of government leaders is not common. Spouses of leaders in Canada, US, UK, South Africa among other countries do not receives allowances from the Government.Mrs Pauline Kalonzo, wife of Vice President

Mrs Pauline Kalonzo, wife of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. Photo/FILE

They may receive accountable stipends for clothing allowances and travel expenses if it involves accompanying their husbands for work-related activities.

These amounts are usually minimal and do not equal a regular salary.

They would likely only be paid if they are heading a Government committee or sub-committee.

Acting Finance minister John Michuki said: “I’m not aware as MP and minister for Finance. Maybe I’ll try and find out,” he said.

Mrs Odinga, through her husbands spokesperson Salim Lone, said she had only heard of the pay proposal through press reports.

“There has been no Government official who has spoken to her or me regarding this matter,” she said.