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Kenyan Parliament Pay Hike Called ‘Illegal’

  • Peter Clottey

The executive director of Kenyans for Democracy and Justice, a political pressure group, has described as illegal the unanimous decision by legislators to increase their monthly salaries scheduled to take effect Thursday.

Okia Omtata said Kenyans are outraged after members of parliament passed a report Wednesday raising their salaries from Sh851, 000 ($10,411.82) to Sh1.1 million ($13,455.76).

“We don’t believe that the parliament has the power to appoint a committee, meaning that committee becomes an independent committee to look into their salaries. So, what they are doing is they have appointed consultants whom they pay to fix their salaries. And, that is not acceptable, (and) it is against the law of Kenya,” he said.

The increase comes ahead of the referendum that will pave way for the implementation of Kenya’s new constitution. Experts say the new constitution stipulates that members of parliament will not be able to arbitrarily increase their own salaries.

Legislators adopted the Akiwumi report that was tabled in parliament Wednesday by the parliamentary service commission proposing an increase in lawmakers’ salaries before they could agree to have their allowances taxed.

Local media reports that Kenya’s treasury will have to look for funds to pay for the increased salaries. The legislators are reportedly ready to endorse three bills aimed to ensure they are paid their increased salaries.

But, Omtata said his organization will continue to oppose what he described as an illegal act.

“We are going to get our vuvuzelas and play them so loud they (the lawmakers) will not be heard. If the Chief Justice still does not give us our bench, then we are going to have mass action against the judiciary, so that we are heard and that case is determined as an important constitutional case that touches on the very soul of the Republic of Kenya,” Omtata said.

Walter Nyambati, vice chairman of Kenya’s parliamentary service commission, was quoted as saying, “Human nature is that employers want to pay less to their employees, while the employees want more to justify the work done. We need to balance these two. It will be unjust to reduce the remuneration of MPs half-way through their (five-year) contract.”

A group of civil society groups sharply protested a similar pay increase in 2007. In a statement the group said Kenyan “lawmakers had shown a great deal of greed in the past, increasing their salaries whimsically and constantly awarding themselves hefty payoffs at the expense of the Kenyan taxpayers.”

Executive director Omtata said that legislators need to be stopped by any means necessary after accusing them of continuing to insult the intelligence of Kenyans by repeatedly flouting the constitution with impunity.

“You, as an employee, cannot fix your own salary. They are employees of Kenya and they cannot be fixing their own salaries. It’s a major principle. Even the president’s salary is not fixed by the president. It is fixed differently. But, the MPs fix their own salaries and that is where the problem is,” Omtata said.