Kenya President vetoes huge bonuses for parliament

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Associated Press

Posted on October 10, 2012 at 4:32 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 10 at 8:37 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's president vetoed a move by the country's parliament to award legislators bonuses of up to $110,000 at the end of their term next year.

The move is unconstitutional and untenable in the country's prevailing economic circumstances, President Mwai Kibaki said late Tuesday.

Kibaki noted recent increases of salaries for teachers and doctors, and said Kenya requires massive resources to implement a new constitution and meet other competing demands in the economy.

The legislators last week quietly awarded themselves the bonuses, sparking public outrage.

On Tuesday, at least 100 people, including a popular Kenyan musician, protested outside parliament shouting "thieves" and urging the president not to approve the pay bill.

Kenya's 222 legislators currently make about $120,000 a year each. The minimum wage in Nairobi, the capital, is about $1,500 a year.

Kenyan parliamentarians are fast earning a reputation for trying to give themselves expensive perks. Last year parliament attempted to raise their annual pay to $175,000 but the idea was met with such fierce public resistance that they shelved the plan. Earlier this year parliament inaugurated a new 350-seat chamber, where each of the seats cost about $3,000.

Human rights and anti-corruption activists say the motion to increase the parliament's bonus to $110,000 — a vote that passed Thursday night with only about 30 legislators present — violates the country's 2010 constitution, which does not allow parliament to set its own pay.

Over 200,000 high school and primary school teachers held a strike last month over pay. The government bowed to the demands after three weeks of arguing there was no more money to raise the salaries.

Doctors called off their strike last week after walking out for 18 days to protest the poor state of public hospitals where some of the doctors have had to use their lights from their mobile phones in emergency situations to conduct procedures.

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