Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 12:35 UK

Huge financial cost of Kenya cabinet

By Adam Mynott
BBC News, Nairobi

The new Kenyan cabinet is the largest in the history of post-independence Kenya and it will come at a huge financial cost.

Leading members of the new cabinet
Some see the costs as a price worth paying for reconciliation

The former opposition leader, now the new prime minister, Raila Odinga, had pushed for a cabinet of 26, but agreed with the demands of President Mwai Kibaki and his followers for a much bigger administration.

There are 40 Kenyan cabinet ministers and 52 assistant ministers, not far short of half the total number of MPs.

Cabinet posts attract a monthly salary of nearly $18,000 (9,000). Assistant ministers earn a bit less - just over $15,000.

The new prime minister and two new deputy prime ministers will be paid more. So salaries alone will cost the Kenyan taxpayer $1.5m a month.

Ministers and their assistants also get allowances - that adds another $210,000 a month to the bill.

To add insult to injury, the Kenyan exchequer only claws back a little in tax: only around $3,000 of the ministers' income is treated as taxable income.

Security costs

There are a host of other benefits as well: travel allowances, health insurance, rural homes, even club membership.

It is impossible to put an accurate figure on the total burden, but these extra bonuses amount to a cash value of at least $13m a year, or to put it another way, enough to build around 50 new schools in Kenya.

Kenya slum
The average wage in Kenya is just $400 a year

There will be 40 permanent secretaries and their staff, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars more to the bill.

There is security too. Mr Odinga has already been allocated 45 security staff and a fleet of cars to travel in.

Cabinet ministers and their deputies get a minimum of five security personnel and a couple of shiny new cars.

In a country with an annual per capita income of less than $400, the bill for the bloated unity cabinet is huge.

Some see it as a price worth paying for reconciliation after the disputed election, but many people view it as another example of the political class enriching itself on the backs of ordinary Kenyans.

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