By Linet Igadwah
Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) spent Sh8.6 billion in sitting and travel allowances in the year to June, after the High Court scrapped the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s (SRC) cut on State officers’ benefits.
Data from the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that during the review period, MCA perks rose sharply by 40.9 percent — or Sh2.5 billion — from Sh6.1 billion a year earlier.
The SRC in July 2017 abolished MCAs’ mileage reimbursements, sitting allowances for plenary sessions and special responsibility perks. However, the High Court last year reinstated the benefits, forcing the SRC to increase the cap on sitting allowances to Sh124,800 monthly from Sh80,000 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.
The SRC in the July 2017 notice had also abolished reimbursement of MCAs’ mileage claims, sitting allowances for plenary sessions and special responsibility perks.
In the period under review, sitting allowance paid to the 2,243 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 normally labelled as 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 jet-setting ways of State and public officials have been criticised due to the huge delegations they send, including what opposition leaders have called “quite a number of joy riders”.
The allowances have been on a steady and worrying increase since the MCAs took office in May 2013, causing concern that the perks were gobbling up county governments’ revenues with minimal corresponding impact in terms of public service.
At Sh8.6 billion, counties spent more than a fifth — or 21.7 percent — of the Sh40.3 billion they collected as own revenues from charges like parking fees, land rates and business permits, to pay MCAs. The perks paid to MCAs has made the position the most sought after job in Kenya’s politics.
On average, each of the 2,243 MCAs received sitting and travel perks equivalent to Sh319,512 monthly based on the Sh8.6 billion spending. This, lumped together with basic salary, has the effect of increasing their gross cost to the counties to nearly Sh500,000 per MCA.
Busia, Homa Bay, Nyamira and Tana River county assemblies surpassed the monthly SRC ceiling on sitting allowances when they paid the MCAs Sh146,149, Sh148,214, Sh150,097 and Sh138,706 respectively.
Last week, the Treasury announced what it called “brutal” cuts on spending, including on government officials’ foreign trips to curb the rising recurrent expenditure.
Acting Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani said all noncore expenditure will be reviewed to ensure the government can make savings and fund its programmes without relying too much on debt.
Mr Yatani singled out overseas trips by State officials — which often involve lavish travel allowances — advertising by government departments, travel, seminars as examples of wasteful spending.
Courtesy of the“Business Daily”