6 December 2017

Kenya: Sarah Serem Leaves SRC With Her Head High

Throughout the last six years, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has simply been known as the Sarah Serem-led commission, perhaps to edify the high moral ground of the chairperson or the reverence with which those working in the public sector view the commission.

Before it emerged in 2011, a product of the long struggle for a new Constitution, the terms and conditions of service for public sector employees were in pure bedlam.

The whole public service had so many employers with terms and conditions of service that were not only parallel but diametrically opposed to each other.

Apart from the Public Service Commission, there was the Teachers Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission and the most famous of all Parliamentary Service Commission.

In fact institutions like the Central Bank of Kenya, despite being in the mainstream public service, operated on their own and awarded their staff hefty salaries and benefits that were light years above their colleagues in other sectors even though the qualifications were often times similar.

SELF ENTITLEMENT

From the foregoing, it is easy to understand the background leading to the formation of SRC and why its eventual arrival in 2011 rattled the industry in which every actor had acquired a sense of self entitlement.

"You will recall the new MPs came into office in 2013 with a sense of entitlement as they were used to setting their own salaries as they deemed fit," Ms Serem said during what amounted to her farewell speech on Tuesday.

During the occasion, Deputy President William Ruto said the bold steps being taken by the government to control the public wage bill are being eroded by continuous recruitment of employees in the public service.

He ordered the Ministry of Public Service to begin the process of engaging the Public Service Commission of Kenya (PSCK) and the 47 County Public Service Boards (CPSB) to ensure the ballooning wage bill is controlled as a matter of urgency.

"All policy efforts of the last five years to bring down the wage bill are being eroded by the huge numbers in the public service. National and county governments should support harmonisation of salaries for public servants as part of the grand strategy to reduce wage bill," Mr Ruto said.

RECRUIT STAFF

The Deputy President said the public service should only recruit staff in essential areas and cautioned against hiring of employees who do not offer essential services.

He noted that governors, cabinet secretaries, county executive committee members all have a large number of advisors, who offer no essential task but only help in raising the wage bill.

"Those public servants who are hiring advisors to do the job they are employed or elected to do, must be ready to go home because this has contributed to the mess in the wage bill we find ourselves in," he said.

He further asked the ministry to expedite the tabling of the Public Service Remuneration Bill to the national assembly which he said will be a critical anchor in the management of the public wage bill.

JOB FREEZE

He added: "How can a Cabinet Secretary have five to six advisors? It simply means you do not know what you are doing. Just resign. Some of us when we were ministers didn't have advisors."

Hailing the Commission for a job well done, the DP regretted that many policy initiatives in the last five years like job freeze, rationalisation and harmonisation of salaries and benefits for public servants had failed to achieve the desired effect of controlling the wage bill that now stands at an unsustainable Sh627 billion and which is estimated to rise to Sh650 billion by the end of the 2017/18 financial year.

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