Taxpayers are under a heavy burden to keep their Members of County Assembly (MCAs) comfortable as their average monthly pay ballooned past Ksh 500,000 mark.
They, like their Parliament counterparts, have seen their average salaries, benefits and allowances increased every now and then while the taxpayer is being pushed to the limit for more taxes.
The Controller of Budget released data which shows that MCAs’ average salary, allowances and benefits rose to Sh547,146 in the year to June, up from Sh451,827 in a similar period a year earlier – reflecting a 21
The average cost of keeping all the 2,243 Ward representatives at work in the 47 counties each month translates to roughly Sh1,227,248,478b which translates to approximately a whopping Sh14,726,981,736b each year.
Narok ward representatives received the highest benefits with each MCA costing the county an average of Sh765,635 a month, up from Sh328,757 a year earlier, ahead of Taita Taveta (Sh722,292) and Machakos (Sh719,867).
The average cost is based on the MCAs’ monthly salary, mileage allowance, airtime perks, per diems and expenses linked to their local and foreign travel.
Bungoma MCAs are the least paid with an average benefit of Sh270,005 a month which is almost three times less that of Narok ward representatives, followed by Mombasa ward representatives at Sh289,058 and Nairobi MCAs at Sh337,567.
Nairobi, despite being a wealthy county paid its representatives less than an impoverished Turkana which pays
The controller of Budget said that high expenditure on non-crucial activities should stop because it is unconstitutional.
‘Travelling should be rationalised in order to free funds for implementation of key development programmes,”he said.
The 21 percent increase in MCA benefits came after the High Court scrapped the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s (SRC) cut on State officers’ benefits.
MCAs are entitled to a monthly salary of Sh165,000, Sh5,000 for airtime, sitting allowance of Sh5,000 per session, monthly mileage allowance of Sh39,800 for intra county travel, as well as per diems for local and foreign trips.
The SRC had in July 2017 cut the monthly pay of MCAs to Sh144,375, abolished the monthly mileage and sitting allowances and lowered per diem rates, drawing protests from the MCAs.
However, the High Court last year reinstated the benefits, forcing the SRC to increase the cap on sitting allowances and return of MCAs’ travel perks.
While reinstating the perks, Justice George Odunga found that the SRC had failed to study the labour market and conduct a compressive job evaluation one year before the pay review as the law demands.
In the period under review, sitting allowance paid to the 2,243 MCAs increased by 52.4 percent or by Sh760 million from the Sh1.4 billion spent the previous year. Spending on domestic travel or reimbursement of MCAs’ mileage claims rose by 28 percent to Sh5.2 billion in the year to June.
Foreign travel, which MCAs call benchmarking trips, rose by a staggering 76.4 percent to Sh1.2 billion from the Sh682 million that the ward reps had spent on foreign trips in the year to June 2018.
The data on average benefits paid to MCAs shows that some of Kenya’s poorest counties in terms of their contribution to the country’s wealth or Gross Domestic Product also had disproportionately high average perks for MCAs.
Isiolo, Taita Taveta, Lamu and Tharaka-Nithi were among counties that offered juicy benefits to MCAs despite appearing in the list of counties that generated the least wealth to the country.
Isiolo’s share of GDP was the smallest at 0.2 percent, yet it ranked ninth among the 47 counties on MCA’s benefits. It paid a benefit of Sh651,894 monthly on average to its MCAs. Lamu was ranked fifth on the benefits scale although it was number 45 on its contribution to Kenya’s GDP.
It remains to be seen if counties will adopt austerity measures that the National Treasury announced last month that included a reduction in foreign trips, local travel and out of town meetings fashioned as trainings.
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