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‘Less than KSh400,000’ basic salary for Kenyan MPs? Lawmaker’s defence against taking coronavirus pay cut falls flat

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In March 2020, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said senior members of the national government would take voluntary pay cuts. This was meant to “share the burden” of the Covid-19 pandemic on public finances. 

Kenyatta said he and his deputy William Ruto would take an 80% cut, while cabinet and chief administrative secretaries would give up 30% and principal secretaries 20%.

These reductions would last “for the duration of the global crisis”, the president said.

‘Populist measures’

In late April it was reported that lower ranking civil servants could also voluntarily reduce their pay, while the national airline and several media houses have asked their staff to take cuts. 

The country’s supreme court judges will reduce their salaries by 30%, as will both Speakers of Kenya’s two-chamber parliament

The spotlight then fell on parliamentarians. One newspaper editorial said the country’s lawmakers had “let Kenyans down by refusing to take pay cuts”.

But John Mbadi, the national assembly minority leader, pushed back against what he termed “populist measures”.

“Philanthropy cannot run a country. What can run a country is targeted, clear budgetary provisions,” he said in an interview with Citizen TV.

Mbadi said pay cuts for MPs were good, but would not make a significant contribution to fighting the coronavirus at the constituency level.

“The basic salary of a member of parliament is less than KSh400,000 and you can check,” he said.

But is an MP’s basic salary less than KSh400,00? As Mbadi suggested, we checked.

Cuts to basic salaries, not allowances

Mbadi told Africa Check that the KSh400,000 figure was from a 2013 legal notice issued by Kenya’s salaries commission. A more recent notice was published in 2017, but is yet to be implemented. (Note: The 2017 notice is Gazette Notice 6516.)

“Our salaries have not changed. We are using the gazette notice of 2013. The 2017 one is still in court,” Mbadi told us.

A May 2019 decision stored in the online repository of Kenya’s court cases confirms that “the current status quo is that Members of Parliament have always been paid using the 2013 Gazette Notice”.

Lyn Mengich chairs the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, which sets pay for state officers and advises public bodies on how to pay their employees. She confirmed that the commission was in a legal battle with the Parliamentary Service Commission, the administrative arm of the legislature that negotiates and manages salaries for parliament’s members and staff.

“Parliament took the [salaries commission] to court, and that matter has not been resolved,” she told Africa Check.

Mengich said voluntary pay cuts were not a responsibility of the commission, but any reductions would apply to basic salaries, not allowances.

How much do MPs earn in 2020?

In a July 2019 media statement, the Speaker of the national assembly said a “member of parliament is entitled to a salary of KSh532,500”.

The 2013 legal notice sets out a starting salary of KSh532,500 for majority and minority leaders, committee chairs, members of the Speaker’s panel, whips and the rest of the MPs. 

They then get a pay rise of KSh44,375 a year, so that by the fifth year an MP would earn a basic salary KSh710,000.

Kenya’s most recent general election was held in August 2017. As 2020 is the third year since that poll, the basic pay of a Kenyan parliamentarian is now KSh621,250, not less than KSh400,000 as Mbadi claimed.

Further reading:

FACTSHEET: How much do Kenyan members of parliament earn – and are they overpaid?

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