At least 30 assistant Kenyan ministers have written a letter to the president, complaining they have no work to do.
Assistant Tourism Minister Kalembe Ndile is "treated like a shadow"
"I just go to the office and read newspapers," said Abu Chiaba, an assistant fisheries minister.
His counterpart in the wildlife and tourism ministry said he learnt of policy decision in the press.
President Mwai Kibaki promised a lean government when he took power in 2002, but instead increased the number of jobs to reward his coalition partners.
Kenya has 50 assistant ministers serving in 33 ministries, as some ministries have two appointed assistants.
The government spends more than $9m a year to meet salaries and allowances for the assistant ministers.
"We owe it to the taxpayer that what we are paid is commensurate with what we do," they said in a letter addressed to the president.
"I'm treated like a shadow and only learn of issues in my ministry through the press," said assistant Tourism and Wildlife Minister Kalembe Ndile.
The assistant ministers want Mr Kibaki to spell out their duties and they also want to be referred to as deputy ministers.
Some current ministers who previously served as assistant ministers have also supported their colleagues.
"I have been there before and I know how assistant ministers are treated," said Mohammed Kuti, now minister for youth affairs.
"They just go to the office, read newspapers and are ambushed to attend functions on behalf of the minister."
But some Kenyans are wondering why they have taken so long to complain about their lack of work, only raising the issue six months before general elections are due.