24 April 2018

Kenya: Lift Freeze on Hiring, Commission Urges State

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has urged the National Treasury to lift the freeze on recruitment in the public service to enable them to replace the ageing workforce and address the high youth unemployment.

The commission, at the same time, is seeking to be exempted from advertising through the Government Advertising Agency for efficiency and to reach a wider pool of job applicants.

Appearing before the National Assembly Parliamentary Accounts Committee on Monday over the Auditor General report of 2014/15 and 2015/2016, PSC acting chairperson Peter ole Nkuraiya told the MPs the freeze is hurting thousands of youths graduating from various universities and cannot be absorbed in the public service despite possessing requisite skills.

RECRUITMENT

"It is our prayer the National Assembly considers reviewing the freeze on recruitment in the public service to address youth unemployment and succession management challenges and improving service delivery in the public service," Mr Nkuraiya said. He told the MPs it has become difficult to address the staffing gaps in the grading structure due to non-replacement of exiting officers.

A report tabled by PSC to Parliament in January indicated the percentage of civil servants above the age of 50 had increased from 35 per cent in 2016 to 37 per cent last year. This means 66,000 civil servants will retire before 2027 creating fears the State will be forced to retain some workers beyond the retirement age of 60 due to skills shortage.

BUDGETS

Only 19 per cent of the civil servants were aged 19-35 years in the report. Another 13.9 per cent are aged 36-40 years while 14 per cent of them are between 41 and 45 years. The commission also asked the committee to recommend to the National Assembly additional finances to help it in the implementation of its programmes.

"The delay in loading of the quarterly budgets and exchequer releases affects timelines for implementation of planned programmes and activities," Mr Nkuraiya said.

He also told the MPs the public service is facing a shortage of technical staff that has been occasioned by high turnover to private sector and foreign countries that offer better terms. Last year, the National Treasury imposed a ban on hiring as one of the measures to curb the ballooning wage bill. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said new recruitment will only be allowed for essential services such as security, health and education.

UNDERPAID

"It is better to have a lean workforce and pay them well than have many people who are underpaid," Mr Rotich said then.

According to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the government spends nearly half of its tax revenue salaries.

In the Public Finance Management Regulations, 2015, the national government expenditure on compensation to employees should not exceed 35 per cent of its equitable share of revenue.

With the government's spending increasing faster than its revenue collection, the freeze was among measures proposed to reduce the budget deficit.

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