Nairobi — Kenyans on Thursday got the first opportunity to participate in setting the salaries of State officers as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission began public hearings on proposed pay.
This brings to an end the cunning way in which MPs have always allocated themselves a lower taxable salary and extremely high allowances, as a strategy of concealing their earnings and escaping the taxman's dragnet.
The raft of salary bands which will affect the President, Vice President, Chief Justice, Governors, Senators, MPs among others entail a drastic reduction in the earnings of all public servants, including the President and Members of Parliament.
The public will be involved in the harmonisation of salaries for State officers only as required by Article 10 of the Constitution and the SRC will adjust the pay proposals before gazetting them at the end of the public hearings on February 15.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) chairman Omboko Milemba was first to make his contribution and he said he opposed the proposed salaries saying they were still too high.
Milemba called on the salaries commission to reduce the disparity between the highest and lowest paid civil servants and a further reduction in the salaries of County Assembly members as their numbers are high and have lower education credentials.
The SRC arrived at the proposed figures with assistance of PriceWaterhouseCoopers who conducted a job evaluation for all State offices. The process focused on job evaluation, assessment of level of skill or competency required, and comparison to international practices.
Peter Mathuki, an MP from the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), questioned the rationale of basing the pay harmonisation with other countries that are more developed than Kenya saying they are unsustainable.
"The lowest person should be paid about 10 times the per capita income, and the highest may be 50 times. So that the gap between the lowest and the highest is reasonable and then we can limit the wage bill to 25 percent of the total revenue collected," Kenya Private Sector Association's Julius Okara said.
Using the current remuneration rate, the 3,670 State officers will cost the taxpayer Sh14.73 billion annually. But the commission estimates the new structure will bring this cost down to Sh13.04billion.
Members of the public said it was unreasonable for Governors, Senators and MPs to be paid between Sh1 million and Sh800,000.
"You can't give a governor Sh1.1 million and the give his cabinet (County Executive Committee) peanuts (Sh182,000). You are in fact telling us to be corrupt. I am saying you reduce the one for the governor even by half," said Otieno Konji who was unsuccessful in getting the ODM nomination for the Homabay gubernatorial seat.
Some urged the commission to reconsider its proposed pay to Judges upwards, saying as it is it will discourage corruption in the Judiciary to avoid "them selling judgments to make ends meet."
They said the commission should adopt a band similar to the one used by the US where it's divided between Executives Senior Executive and the security sector saying this will avoid protocol wars with the government.
"If there similar commands for example in the army etc, I think they don't need a high discrepancy in pay," Buxton Mayabi, a civil servant at the Office of the President said.
"Can you imagine the problem you will have just because you have placed the AG in a separate grade scale to the Secretary of Cabinet. These are both big people, they both seat in Cabinet but you have separated them," Victor Towett, a former civil servant added.
However, Commissioner Jacqueline Mugo explained that the proposed scale was not aimed at establishing a government perking order.
The proposed salary review by the Salary and Remuneration Commission will not be approved by either the Executive or Parliament as has been the tradition.
On Tuesday, the commission released the proposed salaries which suggested a reduction of the President's pay to a maximum of Sh1.75 million from Sh2 million, Deputy President Sh1.48 million down from the current Sh1.93 million, MPs from Sh851,200 to Sh740,927 among others.
The Speaker of the National Assembly will earn a maximum of Sh1.49 million, while the Chief Justice is expected to take home Sh1.38 million.
The commission will also review salaries of public servants in the second phase. She added that the salary and structure review is aimed at reducing the huge wage bill.
The pay structure captures minimum, maximum pay and allowances for State officers in the devolved government and occupiers of constitutional offices.