A counter-offer for striking lecturers will only be tabled after a job evaluation has been concluded, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has said.
The announcement is likely to prolong the dispute as the strike enters its 21st day.
Mr Rotich told the National Assembly's Education committee, chaired by Tinderet MP Julius Melly, that a court case by lecturers to stop the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) from concluding the job evaluation had made it hard for the government to come up with the counter-offer.
"We have no control over the court process and also the constitution of SRC commissioners who are supposed to approve the job evaluation report will take time," said Mr Rotich.
He urged lecturers and universities to work on a return-to-work formula and allow time for talks which he said may take two to three months.
Mr Rotich told the committee that the job evaluation started in 2015 and apart from determining the worth of public service jobs, it was also to ensure the wage bill remained at a sustainable level. "It is noted that the SRC had not concluded the job evaluation because only a few universities submitted the requisite information sought by the commission to enable it to determine the remuneration of staff in that sector," said Mr Rotich.
The job evaluation, that was stopped, had ranked vice chancellors the highest at E5, their deputies and principals of colleges at E4, while the lowest ranked employee was a sweeper at grade A.
Mr Rotich insisted that there was no shortcut in the negotiation of 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement, adding that strikes will not solve the problem.
He also took issue with the existence of two payrolls in universities, saying they should be consolidated into one.
"We have cases where lecturers are earning two salaries - from self-sponsored programmes and regular ones. You cannot earn two salaries yet you are hired to teach. This is the information universities do not want to share because we will know what lecturers earn," said the CS.
He added: "University vice chancellors, who are the chief executive officers, have been very economical with data especially when it comes revenues generated from self-sponsored students."
The strike has affected more than 300 international students at University of Nairobi. The university's deputy vice chancellor Isaac Mbeche said most of the affected international students were undertaking their postgraduate studies.
"For the last one year, they have witnessed four strikes. They are not happy at all since most of them are sponsored to study here," said Prof Mbeche, warning that in future the students will shun the local universities.
Lecturers have vowed to go on with their strike until the government gives them an offer.
The lecturers have also moved to court to challenge an order declaring their strike illegal.