President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in March that salaries consumed half of the country’s revenues and had to be cut as they impeded government spending on developmental projects. Months later, the Salaries and Remunerations Commission has pounced on the leadership’s astronomical salaries and trimmed them down. The country will save around $81.90 million as a result of the recent cuts.
“Mpigs” in the “piggy bank”
In 2013, Members of Parliament in the country demanded a pay rise which resulted in protests and a lot of name calling. Instead of the payrise, the legislators were slapped with a pay cut to $75,000 per year which was no where close to the $120,000 they were demanding. They also exposed their motives in seeking office: to make a quick buck. When the whole fiasco was over, the legislators had a new name: Mpigs and the parliament, a piggy bank. The compromise of $75,000 was still 40 times the country’s average income. There was still a need to make changes which have now come only weeks from elections. Convenient timing!
In the same year, a ranking found Kenyan legislators second among the most paid in the world behind Nigerian legislators (a story for another day). In fact, the ranking showed that four out of the top five countries were African. It was a shameful ranking to top but Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa were shamelessly ahead of the pack. It is therefore a welcome move by the Salaries and Remunerations Commissions of Kenya to cut the monstrous salaries the executive and parliamentary representatives have been bagging.
The President’s gross salary will be cut from $16,000 to $14,000 per month while legislators will lose the equivalent of $900 from $7,200 per month to $6,100 per month. Allowances and perks like car grants are now history. The country’s average income is $150 and the leadership’s salaries exposed a real gap between the voter and the voted. After the adjustment in 2013, Members of Parliament still had unfettered access to allowances which were prone to abuse. The SRC leader, Sarah Serem said there had been claims of around $20,000 per month for mileage allowance alone. Lawmakers however have previously claimed that constituents are dependent on legislators to support them financially but the abuses of allowance would expose the lie for what it is.
The Art of Servant Leadership
It is commendable that President Kenyatta showed his full support for the cuts and even said the decision by the SRC was a constitutional resolution to matters. He added, “The days of wasteful allowances and peculiar but inexplicable payments are behind us. Better and more prosperous days lie ahead of us.” Asserting that public service was a calling, the leader said this is what servant leadership was about.
The Nation, a Kenyan newspaper also reports that Alfred Mutua, a governor supported the move during his campaigns saying, “We cannot afford to have a country of a few millionaires and millions of poor people.”
The new salary structure will come into effect after the elections untill 2022 when the country votes again. Kenya is again setting a blueprint for other countries to follow to seal off leakages in developing economies. As develoiping countries continue to fight corruption, the time is also right to fight extortionists masquerading as politicians. Every leakage should be closed off and every possible dollar directed towards development. Leadership should be about making sure citizens’ lives are improved and not a personal enrichment scheme. The SRC’s press statement perfectly sums it up by saying, “We are accountable to Kenyans; and as public servants , we cannot ignore the element of sacrifice as opposed to pay as we serve our country. We should strive towards being a producing country as opposed to a consuming one.”
May the rest of the continent follow the example of a very wise Kenyan Salaries and Remunerations Commission under the leadership of Ms Sarah Serem. This is the Africa of the future: a continent where leaders sacrifice their comforts for the development of their countries.