They say salary reduction will take a heavy toll on them.
Most MPs have found themselves between a rock and a hard place after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s appeal to public and State officers to voluntarily take a pay cut to aid in the fight against the Coronavirus disease.
On Wednesday, Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto volunteered to take an 80 per cent pay reduction, with Cabinet Secretaries agreeing to have 30 per cent of their salaries slashed.
The Head of State appealed to officers in other arms of government to also consider forfeiting a percentage of their salaries while Covid 19 is threatening to cripple the economy.
However, most of the lawmakers are opposed to the voluntary salary deductions but are not coming out for fear of a backlash from the electorate.
Interviews with several members of the National Assembly and Senators painted a picture of individuals in a catch-22 situation, even though they are some of the best-paid legislators in the world.
The MPs earn about Sh1.3 million per month, inclusive of basic salary and several allowances, making them some of the best remunerated, not only in the region but around the globe.
While some stated their readiness for the reduction, a majority said slashing their pay will take a heavy toll on them – economically – as they are servicing huge loans they took at the beginning of the term of the 12th Parliament.
“My brother, some of us take home only Sh50,000 per month. If I was to accept a deduction, then my family will not eat. That is what it basically means,” a first-term ODM lawmaker said in confidence.
A Wiper MP was against the idea of taking a salary cut but could not go on record for fear of being branded insensitive to the plight of Kenyans.
“Please, don’t quote me but that is the truth. I, and not only me, most of us, we cannot go public on that. It will be detrimental. People will say we are insensitive,” the legislator said.
Awendo MP Walter Owino and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr said it would be impractical for every member to take a pay reduction owing to the huge loans they are repaying.
“Some of us have commitments which may not allow us to take cuts. Let the Treasury retain the five per cent relief in our income tax,” Owino said.
Mutula cautioned that a blanket pay cut will punish some of them and instead proposed budget readjustments to free some cash for the fight against the virus.
“The only thing members can surrender is the allowances they collect from Parliament. We can free between Sh2 billion and Sh2.5 billion from travel, meetings, catering and conference allocations and channel it towards equipping hospitals and hiring of medical personnel,” he said.
On Thursday, speakers Kenneth Lusaka (Senate) and Justin Muturi (National Assembly) announced taking a 30 per cent pay cut and said negotiations were ongoing on how individual members could sacrifice part of their salaries.
Car loans and mortgages are the common facilities most parliamentarians are servicing. They are entitled to a personal car loan of up to Sh7 million and mortgage of as much as Sh20 million payable at an all-time low-interest rate of three per cent.
The MPs take home Sh710,000 as basic salary and a number of allowances, which put their gross salary to at least Sh1,378,000 per month. The allowances include mileage, sitting, airtime, travel, good life and personal accident cover, responsibility perks, and attendance of plenary and committees.
In addition, the 416 lawmakers enjoy a Sh5 million car grant scheme and a generous medical allowance covering themselves, their spouses and up to four children. They are entitled to a weekly mileage allowance of Sh109 per kilometre for as many as 750 km per week and monthly car maintenance allowance of Sh356,525.
But with this huge income, not even the ‘good, generous’ MPs want their cash reduced. They have maintained they are broke and have been pushing for higher perks. They have been at war with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the constitutional agency charged with overseeing remuneration of State and public officers.
Just last year, the commission was forced to move to court to stop the legislators from awarding themselves Sh250,000 per person in monthly house allowance. They had already pocketed the money, backdating it by some months, behind the commission’s back, forcing the team to seek court intervention.