Thursday, May 28, 2009



May 28 2009

By Alex Ndegwa
MPs vented their anger on the Government proposal to increase salaries of constitutional office holders, setting the stage for a showdown when the issue comes up for voting next week.

The MPs insisted that the timing for the proposed new salary scales was wrong, saying Parliament would appear insensitive to the plight of the poor at a time the economy is doing badly.

The Cabinet approved the proposed pay raise through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill before Parliament, but the move has apparently outraged members and they have vowed to shoot it down.

Yesterday, Parliament concluded debate on he Bill, with MPs opposing the pay increase for the Attorney General, Chief Justice, Controller and Auditor-General, judges, electoral and public service commissioners.

With the Bill passing the Second Reading, the stage is now set for fireworks at the Committee of the Whole House, where members scrutinise each section of the Bill and vote on controversial provisions.

Outraged MPs

The pay raise proposal has outraged MPs who have urged the Attorney General, Amos Wako to shelve it or face their wrath. Yesterday, former Justice Minister Martha Karua became the latest to criticise the pay increase, arguing that the timing was inappropriate.

"I oppose any pay rise before the constitutional review that spells out guidelines for remuneration is completed," the Gichugu MP said, adding that the performance of some would-be beneficiaries was wanting.

"The Public Service Commission is one body that has continued to encourage corruption and nepotism in Civil Service appointments," Ms Karua said.

Karua, who quit the Cabinet in April, said cartels that seek to obstruct reforms should realise that their welfare can only be improved alongside that of others. The former minister said during her tenure in Cabinet, she had reluctantly signed a Cabinet memo endorsing the pay raise since salaries of staff at lower cadres had not been considered.

Karua also said pay for Interim Independent Electoral Commissioners (IIEC) can be negotiated, just like that of the committee of experts tasked to rewrite the Constitution.

However, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, who seconded the Motion, said the legislation provided for the salaries of the IIEC commissioners.

MPs Danson Mungatana (Garsen), Johnstone Muthama (Kangundo), Millie Odhiambo (Nominated), Eugene Wamalwa (Saboti) and Mutava Musyimi (Gachoka) are among those who opposed the proposal, arguing that it would be a slap in the face of suffering Kenyans. But Mr Wako defended the proposed new salary scales for constitutional office holders, saying their pay had not been reviewed since 2001.

Deny pay rise

The AG said it was unfair to deny them a pay increase while others had benefited. "It is a matter of tightening the belt, or they should revert to their 2001 salaries," he said.

During that period, he said, salaries of MPs and civil servants, teachers and members of the disciplined forces had been increased at least twice. Opponents also poked holes into some provisions of the Bill like the new perks covering the IIEC vice-chairman, a position that is non-existent for now.

MPs urged the AG to shelve the section on the pay increase to allow for public discussions and until the proposed Permanent Public Service Remuneration Review Board is set up to harmonise salaries.

"I urge the AG to withdraw this provision because we would not want to throw away the entire Bill, which has some good provisions," Mr Mungatana said. He added: "None of the beneficiaries will die of hunger if the new pay is not approved now."

If Parliament approves the proposed perks, the AG’s new basic pay would rise to nearly Sh1 million a month (exclusive of allowances), up from Sh531,650 a month.

And when allowances are added at current rate, the AG and CJ will take home up to Sh1.7 million a month if they have served in their posts for at least 10 years.

Wako has served for 18 years and will automatically qualify for the new rate, while Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, who is doing his fifth year — will have to wait for another five.

Yesterday, Parliament first approved a procedural Motion speeding up debate on the Bill because Standing Orders require the relevant committee to scrutinise a Bill for 10 days and submit a report to the House.