8 February 2013

Kenya: Public Demands Further Cuts to Civil Servants' Salaries

Kenyans yesterday demanded further cuts in the new salary structure for state officers proposed by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

Civil society groups who made their opinions known during the commission's public hearings held at the KICC suggested capping the salary of the President who should be the highest paid civil servant at Sh500,000 a month inclusive of all allowances and the least paid civil servant be paid Sh100,000 inclusive of allowances.

The civil society groups said capping the highest and lowest salaries for state officers would not only rationalize the public servant salary scales and minimize the huge discrepancies currently in existence but would also cut the wage bill to below 25 per cent of the budget.

The commission had proposed to cut the the president's salary from the current Sh2.4million between Sh1.3 million and Sh1.7 million on the higher scale.

They proposed that the deputy president be paid between Sh1.1 million and a maximum of Sh1.4 million from the current Sh1.8 million.

The commission proposed pegging MPs' pay at a minimum of Sh555,696 and a maximum of Sh740,927. Members of the Tenth Parliament earned a princely Sh851,000 a month.

Julius Okara from KEPSA said the salary cut proposal by SRC was a 'mockery' and will not do much to reduce the country's swelling wage bill.

"It seems SRC has become a lobby group for various interest group within the public sector, where we are seeing some people's salaries upped and others cut. We expected a radical salary cut that would help attract only those who are willing to sacrifice and serve the public and not those who are out to enrich themselves. What SRC has proposed is a zero-some game," he said.

He objected to the 'piecemeal manner' the commission was conducting the salary review and said it should have released the entire public service salary structure so that a clear comparison could be made about the least and the highest paid public servant.

Peter Mathuki an MP with the East African Legislative Assembly faulted the commission for setting up salary structure without a proper framework.

"As we talk now the country does not have a salaries and employment policy for the civil service and this where they ought to have begun not by setting salaries based after comparison with other countries," he said adding that such a policy would have helped the commission determine salaries based on the country's GDP.

The commission chair Sara Serem defended the process used in determining the proposed salary structure saying it was done after carrying out a job evaluation, comparing this with other countries and evaluating how they set the salaries after analyzing the country's income.

"There was no better way to do it and there are no other known factors that can be used to award salaries to those in public sector. We moving from where salaries were set through negotiations and underhand deals, to a more open and transparent process," she said.

She described the proposed salaries as being " fair enough" and said the huge salary pay cuts that Kenyans expected could not be implemented abruptly but would be done gradually depending on the prevailing economic conditions.

The current wage bill for the 3,670 state officers whose salaries were reviewed and new ones proposed currently stands at Sh14.73 billion every month. Under the proposed salary cuts, only Sh1.6 billion will be sliced off this wage bill bringing it down to Sh13.04 billion per month.

"This is where we have started and believe me this wage bill will not grow, infact you might see it reduce," she said. The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers chairman Omboko Milemba urged the commission to further slash the salaries saying the commission should also have considered the professional and academic skills of public servants instead of lumping them into groups and paying them the same.

"It is very unfair for county assembly members to be put in the same salary brackets as resident magistrates!" he said. City resident Otieno Kanja said the sitting allowances paid to MPs should be scrapped as they received a salary for their work which is to attend Parliament, sit on committees and enact laws.

He also suggested that members of the various commissions be paid allowances instead of salaries as most of the time they were not in sessions and the day to day affairs of the commissions were run by full-time CEOS or executive directors.

He also criticized the commission for failing to factor in the huge amounts that civil servants were paid as per-diems whenever they travelled outside the country on official trips.

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants deputy secretary-general, Jerry ole Kina demanded further cuts in the salaries of those holding elective posts and objected to the proposal that the maximum civil servant salary be capped at Sh500,000.

"We must accept that there are some jobs such as Cabinet secretaries whose salary cannot be dictated. Most of them are likely to be people from the private sector. Paying them lowly salaries might make many capable Kenyans shy from serving the public sector," he said. The public hearings continue at the KICC until February 15.

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