KENYAN President Uhuru Kenyatta Has rebuked newly elected MPs for resisting modest cuts to their salaries and perks, worth more than $10,000 a month, saying citizens are angry with extravagance in the government.
Kenyatta, whose August 8 re-election is being challenged in the Supreme Court by opposition leader Raila Odinga, vowed not to assent to any law reversing the reductions into legislators’ wages, if the court upheld his victory.
The issue is an emotive one in the East African country, where the minimum wage is equivalent to $100 a month.
On August 23, a legislator who sits on the parliamentary service commission, Gladys Wanga, said the cuts, which have already taken effect, would turn MPs into ‘beggars’, and vowed to oppose them when parliament restarted next week.
Kenyatta told a televised meeting with headteachers: ‘I’m greatly disturbed by the remarks we have been hearing from yesterday of individuals who wish to claim that they should be paid more and they will demand more than what the law provides them.
‘Even as I wait for the Supreme Court to rule [on the election], if it rules in my favour, I’m saying before you, I swear I shall not sign that law.’
Odinga’s ODM party, which sponsored Wanga to parliament, said it did not support the calls for a reversal of the cuts.
‘We stand for equity and prudent management of public resources. We cannot therefore promote or be seen to promote wastage, avarice and inequities in the Kenyan society,’ the party said in a statement.
The annual bill for paying 700,000 public employees, including elected leaders, stands at 627-billion shillings ($6.1bn), which is equal to half of the government’s revenue.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission, which sets wage levels, said in July that it would slash the salaries of top officials, including the president and legislators, to save 8.5-billion shillings a year.
The cuts include scrapping a 5-million-shilling car grant given to every legislator, removal of certain allowances and a 90,000-shilling reduction in basic monthly pay.
Kenyans have reacted angrily to legislators’ demands for the reversal of the cuts. They posted fiery messages on social media, threatening to recall their MPs, and forcing at least one MP to perform a U-turn on television and say she would ‘humbly’ accept the salaries commission’s decision.
Many elected representatives lost their seats to newcomers and independents in the August 8 election, and Kenyatta attributed that partly to voter displeasure with profligacy. ‘It is shameful that we are barely a week away and they [legislators] have not recognised the issues that made Kenyans angry,’ he said.