15 August 2008

Kenya: Civil Servants Given Huge Salary Increase

Nairobi — Civil servants Thursday welcomed their pay increase which in some cases tripled their take-home packages.

A clerk at the Immigration office in Kisumu, who declined to be named, said that the news of the increment was “too good to be true”.

“It does not seem real and I will only believe after I see my payslip,” he said.

In Kericho, the Kenya Civil Servants Union, branch officials commended the Government for the increment.

After announcing the new pay deal, Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno said: “We are spearheading the process of transforming Kenya to a globally competitive and prosperous nation.”

Branch chairman Evans Karani said that although inflation was high, the new salaries will mitigate against the high cost of living. He called on public servants to reciprocate the good gesture by working with dedication and commitment.

More than doubled

Their comments came after salaries for the 120,000 unionisable civil servants were more than doubled on Thursday in one of the biggest single pay increases for employees in the public sector.

The increase will benefit employees in Job Groups “A” to “L” who form the bulk of the civil service. These range from cleaners and messengers to district officers, chiefs and district education officers, among others.

However, the new pay does not include house and other allowances.

But it still leaves a huge gap between the salaries of these workers and those earned by senior civil servants like permanent secretaries, directors of State corporations and other top civil servants.

Some members of this group take home as much as Sh800,000 a month in salaries and allowances compared to the Sh35,275 for the top bracket among those in the union.

The lowest paid civil servant, the cleaner or messenger, will now earn a basic salary of Sh7,829 a month, up from Sh3,000. This is in addition to Sh3,000 a month house allowance and Sh375 medical allowance per month, bringing the monthly total to Sh11,204.

The new increments will raise the Government wage bill from Sh9.04 billion per year to Sh12.6 billion, excluding the money spent on allowances for all civil servants.

Among those to benefit from the increase are immigration officers and executive officers in ministries, some of whom will see their basic pay rise from an average Sh14,215 per month to an average Sh35,275 per month.

With a house allowance of Sh20,000 per month, medical and other allowances, the officers will now take home more than Sh50,000 per month. The increment will be backdated to July as this is when the Government’s financial year begins.

Last month, the Saturday Nation brought to the limelight the plight of underpaid public servants in a lead story titled Shame of Public Service Salaries: Underpaid workers skip lunch and walk to work as cost of living rises.

Nyanza Provincial Public Health Officer Tom Andebe said that the increment would boost morale in the civil service and enhance efficiency.

In Kakamega, civil servants said that the improved salaries were timely and would help cushion them against economic hardships.

Lower cadres

The provincial spokesman of the civil servants’ union, Mr Bernard Lumiti, said they would study the new salaries before issuing a comprehensive reaction.

“We thank the Government for looking into the plight of the lower cadres in the civil service by giving them a pay rise,” he said.

The lowest paid civil servant in Job group A will now earn Sh7,829 from Sh3,310. The salaries do not include house and medical allowances which raise the package to Sh11,204.

The highest civil servant in job group L will now earn Sh30,472 up from Sh11,690. With house and medical allowance, the workers will get Sh 51,972.

The minister said that the increase was as a result of negotiation with the Union of Kenya Civil Servants who had been demanding a 29 per cent increase. The staggered increase has been implemented in phases since 2005.

The latest instalment marked the final salary awards. “Any other awards will be freshly negotiated,” Mr Otieno said.

The minister said the Government had provided Sh3.5 billion this financial year to be distributed to the employees in the listed job groups.

“The distribution of this salary adjustment takes into account the disparities within job groups and the need to motivate staff in the lower and middle class. The increase also takes into account the Government’s ability to pay within the current budgetary constraints,” the minister said during a Press conference in his Harambee House office in Nairobi.

He said the move was in line with the Government policy to harmonise the terms and conditions of service in the public service.

“The implementation is the final salary award in the civil service within the harmonisation framework whose first phase was implemented with effect from July 1 2005,” said Mr Otieno who was accompanied by Union of Kenya Civil Servants officials led by secretary-general Tom Odege and assistant national treasurer Rehema Ibrahim.

According to him, the salary scales have been shortened to enhance the annual increments and make it more meaningful and to provide horizontal equity within respective job groups.

A newly-recruited graduate in job group J will earn Sh21,304 from the previous Sh15,088. When added to a house allowance of Sh6,000 and medical allowance of Sh990, the new graduates will earn Sh28,294.

Those in job group L, like district officers, will benefit the most as they will earn Sh51,972 per month. Their house allowance stands at Sh20,000 while medical allowance is Sh1,500.

After giving the awards, Mr Otieno urged civil servants to be committed to their work, embrace work ethics and spearhead the process of transforming Kenya into to a globally competitive and prosperous nation.

Mr Odege thanked the Government for motivating the workers and termed the increase “a historic move” since unionisable workers in the Government have never been specifically recognised.

He said that they will start negotiations for house, medical and commuter allowances.

Mr Odege said civil servants had no reason to complain any more or demand favours to deliver services. He asked his members to be committed and improve service delivery.

The increase immediately sparked an outcry from the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers chairman, Mr Akelo Misori, who challenged the minister for Education, Prof Sam Ongeri, to follow suit and take teachers to the same level as civil servants.

Mr Misori accused the Teachers Remuneration Committee of sleeping on the job when the public service continued to improve the salaries of workers.

According to him, it was unfair to play divide and rule over teachers and civil servants’ affairs because they both served the country with dedication.

He said teachers could decide to leave Teachers Service Commission and join the Public Service Commission unless TSC changed its punitive policies such as insisting on performance contracts, interdictions and stoppage of salaries.

However, the civil servants union officials asked teachers not to view their welfare in negative light but work hard to improve teachers salaries.

Figures were wrong

“Without a teacher there can be no doctors, engineers, pilots and other professionals, including our ministers; so I urge the teachers unions not to fall in the trap of blackmail but continue with the work the late Ambrose Adongo left behind,” Mr Odege said.

Civil servants interviewed said figures given by the minister were wrong because they had surpassed the salaries quoted and some are already earning more than reported.

“We are way above the salaries quoted and it is likely to cause confusion. The increase is little because we are already earning more or close to what was announced,” a civil servant who sought anonymity told the Nation.

Reported by Kenneth Ogosia, Sollo Kiragu, Maureen Ongwae, Benson Amadala, Walter Menya, Cosmas Butunyi and Abiud Ochieng

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