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May 27, 2013

Kenya Legislators to Debate Report on Pay Commission

by Peter Clottey

Members of Kenya’s parliament plan to debate Tuesday a report which suggests that officials at the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) have violated the constitution.

The Committee on Delegated Legislation compiled the report which it presented to parliament last week.

“One of the issues the report has come up with is that some of the actions of the Salaries and Review Commission were unconstitutional and therefore null and void,” said legislator James Opiyo Wandayi.

Civil society and political pressure groups recently protested against lawmakers’ demands for a salary 130 times the legal minimum wage. The demonstrators released live pigs which they said were symbols of the greed and corruption of politicians.

Displeased with the backlash over their pay increase, legislators demanded the resignation of Sarah Serem, the head of the SRC, after accusing her of demonizing them in public. 

Wandayi says many of his colleagues think that actions of the SRC, an independent body, are illegal.  Some also want to amend the constitution to remove the commission’s ability to determine the legislature’s pay.

“There has been a concerted public campaign by the SRC…of pitting members of the public against parliamentarians. The public has been made to believe that members of parliament are earning too much, yet they are continuing to agitate for even more [money],” said Wandayi.

But Serem and other senior officials of the SRC have denied the accusations.

Wandayi says parliament needs to educate the public over the controversy surrounding lawmakers’ pay.

“The Parliamentary Service Commission, which is in charge of the welfare of members of parliament and other staff of parliament, needs to make a clarification or to do a sensitization [campaign] so the public may come to understand the issues as they are,” continued Wandayi, “because what is not being told is that [legislators] this time around, unlike in the past, are obligated to pay taxes just like any other members of the public.”

Wandayi says Kenyans are justified in their anger over lawmakers’ pay demands, since he says a large portion of the youth are unemployed or in low paying jobs. 

“The poverty level is too high and most people live below a dollar a day, and that actually explains why there is a lot of anger whenever an issue such as this is raised,” said Wandayi.

He says there should be a constitutional amendment to resolve tensions between the SRC and lawmakers over how legislators are paid.

“I cannot rule out either amending the constitution either in the near future or later to address this issue of SRC or any other issue for that matter,” said Wandayi.
Clottey interview with James Opiyo Wandayi, a Kenyan lawmaker