12 March 2014

Kenya: NCCK: Pay Cuts Inadequate to Check Wage Bill

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Kenyan Public officials take salary cuts to ease the wage bill.

Nairobi — The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) has called on the government to initiate other measures of checking the country's wage bill, in addition to the proposed pay cuts.

While expressing his support for President Uhuru Kenyatta's initiative, NCCK General Secretary Reverend Canon Peter Karanja said there were several other measures than can be used to cut on expenditure.

He proposed that Parliament audits the cost of implementing the new Constitution so as to determine what measures can be taken to cut government wastage.

"I know the comments that have been made by Kenyans from different sectors, saying this is too little, too late but you know the Chinese saying that a journey of thousand miles begins with one step," he said.

"We commend the president for that one step and challenge him and his Cabinet to come up with additional measures of checking the wage bill; that one that has come, we appreciate and we are looking for more."

He said an audit by Parliament could determine what areas the country can review in implementing the Constitution.

"One of the disappointments was that in drafting the new constitution, the Committee of Experts did not seem to address what was going to be the cost of rolling out devolution – the constitution commissions and the basic rights enshrined in the Constitution as a right of every Kenyan," he pointed out.

"There are no rights without any cost; someone has to pay for them."

He said if an amendment of the Constitution will help address the current crisis, the process should be initiated.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi who spoke at the same forum called on churches to embrace the initiative.

"We all need to stand and be counted in this country, it is not the case of Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi having a pay cut of 10 percent, where are you?" he posed.

"Do you love your brother or your sister? Ideally in the world, the difference between the lowest and the highest paid must not be more than 25 percent but some of you are looking at me and are enjoying 40 percent," he stated.

He even challenged the church to practice what they preach in a bid to ensure the entire society is developed.

"When you employ your house maids, what do you do? You give them Sh1,500 and in the company where you are employed you are getting Sh500,000… terrible!" he challenged them.

"Every Sunday you profess to be a Christian, what type of Christian is that? Think about it, all of us and I am appealing to the entire nation that we unite in dealing with this animal called unemployment and unsustainable wage bill."

The president's directive to parastatals chiefs to emulate him in taking a 20 percent pay cut has sparked mixed reactions, with experts warning it may not work unless proper policy structures are outlined.

Speaking during the launch of the National Dialogue on the Public Wage Bill on Monday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the Head of State indicated that pay cuts for government employees were no longer an option, but mandatory to address the sky-rocketing wage bill.

"Parastatal chiefs will conform to what the Executive has done and we expect that they will take an equivalent 20 percent pay cut like we have done because it is our job to formulate policy and we expect them to do so," he stated. "And let me assure you, if you fail to do so, there are many Kenyans who are ready and willing to take up those jobs at that lower rate," President Kenyatta said on Monday.

While emphasising that the current wage bill was unsustainable, he pointed out that it would be easier to pay off those who opt to seek legal redress for breach of contract than continue having them in government.

"And those who resist can go to court. Even if they are awarded (damages), it is cheaper for us to pay them off and get other people. So they should not think that they are going to take us back. You need to accept this but if you can't, you can go look for employment where they can pay you that amount of money," he said.

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