Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) have got back Sh1.5 billion they lost in allowances and wages when the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) cut their pay in a review last year.
High Court judge George Odunga restored the payment in a judgment that quashed a gazette notice the SRC used to officially cut the MCAs’ allowances and salaries. The decision means the MCAs are henceforth entitled to the remuneration packages they had before the review.
Justice 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.
“I hereby issue an order of certiorari bringing into this court the decision by the respondent contained in Gazette Notice No. 6518 of July 7, 2017 for the purposes of being quashed and the same is hereby quashed,” the judgment reads.
The County Government of Kakamega and the Kakamega County Assembly Service Board had filed the suit against the SRC’s decision, terming it irregular.
Justice Odunga said the effect of a decision quashing the said gazette notice is that the status quo prevailing before its publication would be revived, adding that it is upon the SRC to decide how to continue from there.
The Controller of Budget (CoB) reports show that sitting allowances for the MCAs dropped from Sh2.3 billion to Sh1.4 billion after the cut or a reduction of Sh860 million.
The SRC, in the August 8, 2017 review, also reduced a governor’s salary from Sh1,056,000 to Sh924,000, while the deputy governor’s pay dropped to Sh621,250 from Sh701,441.
A county assembly speaker’s and a county executive member’s pay also dropped from Sh350,000 to Sh259,875 while that of the deputy speaker was slashed from Sh240,000 to Sh216,563. These salary cuts alone saved the taxpayers an estimated Sh767 million annually.
The SRC, which sets the pay for public servants, announced the 2017-2022 pay structure in July last year, replacing the previous one and slashing an MCA’s pay from Sh165,000 to Sh144,375 a month.
The gazette notice also abolished sitting and mileage allowances for MCAs and Members of Parliament as part of the effort to tame the bloated public wage bill that accounts for half the government’s tax revenues.
The SRC’s decision to cut these State officers’ perks and benefits saw the average monthly sitting allowance paid to the 2,200 MCAs in 12 months to June drop more than half.
Justice Odunga’s decision, which was delivered on his behalf by Justice John Mativo, found that while the SRC’s decision cannot be challenged on the basis of not being palatable to the affected parties, the commission too ought to have complied with the law.
The judge further noted that MCAs cannot complain about the reduction of their pay nor compare themselves with those who served in the previous assemblies because the law recognizes them as new employees.
The SRC in the July 2017 notice abolished also reimbursement of MCAs’ mileage claims, sitting allowances for plenary sessions and special responsibility perks. The governor’s allowances were also abolished as were the special responsibility allowances.
The High Court decision means committee sitting allowances that were capped at Sh80,000 per month for chairpersons of committees reverts to the maximum of Sh208,000, while committee members’ sitting allowances that were capped at Sh48,000 per month will revert to Sh124,800 per month — the rate before the review.
The judgment also means the deputy chairperson of a committee can now earn up to Sh166,400 in sitting allowance up from Sh48,000.
But the decision has huge ramifications on the taxpayers who have been bearing the heavy cost of representation. The SRC has the option of appealing the decision or starting the review process afresh.
The salaries review left the MCAs with average take-home of Sh54,068 each month, down from Sh113,636 in a similar period a year earlier.
County Assemblies spent Sh670.1 million on MCAs committee sitting allowances in 2017/2018 financial year, against an approved budget allocation of Sh2.7 billion.
The review meant that the new crop of representatives elected in the August 8 elections are not expected to earn monthly sitting perks exceeding Sh80,000 from the previous Sh124,800.
The drop in average sitting allowances was also linked to long absence by the MCAs during the August 8 General Election campaigns.