NAIROBI Kenya's president rejected on Saturday plans by members of parliament to triple their end-of-term bonuses and award themselves diplomatic passports, bodyguards for life and state funerals.
In their last act before parliament closed for March 4 elections, Kenyan lawmakers, already among the best paid in the world, tried for a second time in a few months to increase their end-term bonus to 9.3 million shillings ($107,200) each.
President Mwai Kibaki struck down their first attempt last October and, amid public outrage at what one newspaper called the lawmakers' "eccentric greed", he again declined to sign the bill, saying it was unlawful.
"President Kibaki has directed the Attorney General to redraft the Bill to ensure compliance with the Constitution and the law and submit it and the accompanying explanatory memorandum to the Speaker with immediate effect," his press office said in statement.
Under the new constitution, civil servants' pay is to be set by a government Salaries and Remunerations Commission and no one is allowed to award themselves pay rises.
The lawmakers had demanded diplomatic passports for themselves and their spouses, armed bodyguards for life paid for by taxpayers, and the right to be given state funerals, a preserve of presidents and notable achievers, when they die.
The government would have incurred an extra cost of 2 billion shillings to pay the higher bonuses to people considered by the electorate to be already overpaid, lazy and corrupt.
"MPs have annoyed the public on numerous occasions over the five-year term with their persistent display of eccentric greed," the Standard newspaper said on Saturday.
"But even the most cynical among us would not have bet on the lawmakers sticking their hands in the public pocket on the last day in office ... one would have expected that politicians facing an election would have had the decency to exit without creating a ruckus."
Lawmakers earn about $13,000 a month, the bulk in tax-free allowances, a huge figure in a country where an unskilled urban laborer may earn as little as $60 a month, and with a per capita GDP of $800.
In 2011 they refused to pay back taxes demanded by the government, then bought new seats, worth $2,400 each, for the members in the chamber.
Kenya faces a ballooning wage bill to meet pay raises for teachers and doctors at a time when economic growth has slowed and unemployment remains uncomfortably high. The run-up to the election in March is likely to trigger a splurge of government spending.
($1 = 86.7500 Kenyan shillings)
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)