The Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya was established under Chapter 12, Article 230, of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Its mandate is (a) to set and regularly overview the remuneration and benefits of all state officers, and (b) to advise the national and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers, with a particular emphasis on members of parliament. Their main goal is to achieve a wage bill for the country that is fiscally sustainable.
However, Kenya’s current wage bill falls short of the national and economic growth proposals needed to achieve fiscal security. This placed pressure on the development and investment shares of Kenya’s budget. Consequently, this led the national government down the thorny path of money borrowing in order to continue financing development projects, where reports show that significant sums end up in corruption scandals. The burden to service the debt and the burden of repayment are on the taxpayer. Therefore, it was essential for an analysis of Kenya’s fiscal framework to take place in order to fulfil the mandate set out by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya. This joint study was carried out by International Lawyers Project and the National Taxpayers Association.
The legal context
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission undertook the third public sector remuneration cycle for the financial year 2021/22 – 2024/25. This was pursuant to section 11(e) of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Act 2011, which set a four-year review cycle for remuneration and benefits in the public sector. Article 230(4) of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Act 2011 set out the principles of pay determination that the remuneration cycle must observe:
To address these principles, the remuneration cycle should be informed by job valuation, salary survey, streamlining the management of allowances and the public sector wage bill.
The report by National Taxpayers Association shows that according to a 2019 press statement by the Parliamentary Service Commission, the monthly salary for a Kenyan MP is currently KSh 532,500 (US $4,894.97), which is an annual total of KSh 6,390,000 (US $58,196.72). While, the 2017 Gazette Notice No.6516 states that members of The Senate and The National Assembly have a basic monthly starting salary of KSh 621,250 (US $5,710.97), the leader of Majority Parties monthly salaries are KSh 765,188 (US $7,031.69), Deputy Speakers monthly salaries at KSh 924,000 (US $8,491.09) and Speakers of The Senate and The National Assembly at KSh 1,155,000 (US $10,613.86).
The report also shows that legislators are entitled to certain allowances: a committee sitting allowance, a transport allowance, medical benefit, retirement benefit, group life insurance, group personal accident, car loan, mortgage benefit, daily subsistence allowance, airtime, official residence and security. The reports show that these allowances total between at KSh 1.1 million monthly (US $127,000 annually) to KSh 1.387 million monthly (US $158,000 annually).
The National Taxpayers Association and International Lawyers Project
The National Taxpayers Association took a key interest in the management of the Kenyan Wage Bill. The management of legislators’ remuneration has been contested ground between the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, civil society, the public and the Parliamentary Service Commission for some time. As a result of divergent views on the comparative analysis of the pay relative to jurisdictions, a study was commissioned on this pertinent issue.
The National Taxpayers Association engaged the Parliamentary Service Commission on the issue of their allowances and remuneration, to which their key point of argument in their response was that they were among the lowest paid legislators in the world. The National Taxpayers Association lacked the funding to directly carry out a comparative study or survey to properly substantiate their submission to challenge the Kenyan legislators. Thus, in order to put their plan into action, they requested International Lawyers Project to assist them in conducting a comparative study for legislators’ remunerations, benefits and allowances in Kenya and beyond, which also included countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, the UK and USA.
Working towards a fiscally sustainable future
By collaborating with International Lawyers Project on this study, the National Taxpayers Association wished to use the findings to contribute to the third public cycle for the financial year 2021/2022–2024/2025, which will also guarantee that the voice of the citizen is captured. The specific objective of this project was to leverage on the opportunity for the civil society organisations to contribute to the assessment of public sector remuneration reviews. This will, in turn, inform the next schedule of salaries for state officers, and strengthen both the National Taxpayers Association and Okoa Uchumi Coalition’s debt campaigns (the Okoa Uchumi Coalition is a respected civil society platform committed to redressing Kenya’s debt crisis by pushing for political responsibility and accountability). The report with the results from the study has been published and is ready for dissemination.
Although this project is now complete, International Lawyers Project continues to play a significant role. A recent invitation was sent to International Lawyers Project by the National Taxpayers Association to attend an online discussion, which sought to share key findings with citizens and civil society organisations. Looking ahead, International Lawyers Project continues to support the National Taxpayers Association to push the reform agenda in Kenya and other countries. International Lawyers Project looks forward to future collaborations with the National Taxpayers Association to further promote the importance of fiscal sustainability for the benefit of economic justice.
Annabel Yu – Legal Fellow, International Lawyers Project