How much should the Prime Minister earn?

Published on 31/03/2009

By David Ochami and Peter Orengo

Should Prime Minister Raila Odinga earn the same salary as President Kibaki or Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka? That was the big question at a public forum on legislators’ salaries yesterday.

Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura was emphatic that the PM should earn the same salary as the VP and draw similar allowances — until recommendations [by the tribunal] and a future power structure and constitutional dispensation outlining his “responsibilities and powers” is taken on board.

In a wide-ranging presentation, Muthaura stoked fresh controversy when he said there was no way the Prime Minister could earn the same pay with the President although they signed the National Accord as equal partners.

“In terms of government responsibility, the President and Prime Minister have a higher profile (than the VP),” Muthaura declared but added that the Accord did not erase Kibaki’s positions as Head of State and Government, and only ceded limited powers to the PM’s office.

“The President remains Head of State and Government even in the National Accord. What was shared (in the Accord) is functions and cabinet posts. Full stop!”

This emerged even as it was confirmed that the PM still draws the salary of an MP and a Cabinet minister — more than a year after the Grand Coalition Government was formed — while awaiting pay harmonisation.

Audit coalition

But even as this was going on, a high profile parley on Kenya was under way in Geneva, Switzerland, to, among other things, audit the Coalition Government’s performance.

Under Chief Mediator Kofi Annan, participants — among them the Serena Team and key stakeholders — heard that disagreements and infighting in the Cabinet had slowed down implementation of reforms.

Echoing the sentiments in Nairobi, the Prime Minister said fundamental reforms in key institutions were inevitable.

Speaking in his Lang’ata Constituency at the launch of an NGO’s outreach office for sexual and gender based violence, Raila said wananchi had lost confidence in most institutions hence the need to accelerate reforms.

“The way forward is to put up fundamental reforms in social institutions, the Judiciary and the police force,” said Raila.

But speaking at a tribunal on MPs’ remuneration in Nairobi, Muthaura said the Accord signed on February 28, last year “was negotiated in a hurry” and contains provisions that conflict with the Constitution, which should be harmonised by a new charter empowering one authority to regulate and harmonise pay and income for all public employees.

The principals’ earnings should be determined by their constitutionally defined roles and responsibilities, added Muthaura.

He also told the tribunal that although the Accord proffers a higher profile to the PM, he would receive a salary and allowances equal to the Vice-President pending a recommendation (by the tribunal) and the new Constitution that, Muthaura says, will define the Premier’s responsibilities and harmonise the protocol conflicts between his office and that of the Prime Minister.

Pressed by tribunal chairman Justice (retired) Akilano Akiwumi and commissioner Connie Kivuti to elaborate, Muthaura admitted contradictions between the Accord and the Constitution, but was at pains to explain or define the PM’s powers in the grand coalition.

Law review

When Akiwumi suggested that further constitutional changes are needed to “make the National Accord applicable”, Muthaura declared that the “Accord is part of the Constitution and there is no question of it not being applicable,” but admitted there are inconsistencies in the two documents because “it (Accord) was negotiated under abnormal circumstances.”

The Head of the Civil Service then alleged that the “PM’s job is defined by the Constitution” but challenged by Kivuti to be more specific, promised to produce an internal circular demonstrating Raila’s power.

Challenged by Akiwumi that Sections 52 of the Constitution accords more power to the PM than the VP, Muthaura said only a new Constitution would clear the protocol conflict between the two offices.

Muthaura then proposed an equal retirement package for the PM and VP and called for amendments to the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act to enable retired former presidents’ spouses to inherit (retirement) benefits when they die.

Muthaura further disclosed that Deputy Prime Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi would earn salaries and allowances “between that of ministers and the Prime Minister and Vice-President.”

Muthaura suggested that MPs’ and parliamentary staff salary and allowances should be taxed “to avoid widening of gaps with other public servants”. He said Members of Parliament should not be allowed to determine their earnings through the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Muthaura said the Clerk to the National Assembly and other senior parliamentary staff should not get higher pay than PSs, according to the 2005 Cockar Commission report.

He said one authority should be created to regulate terms of service for all public employees, based on the performance of the economy and Government’s ability to pay.

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