Thursday, November 28, 2013


Kenyans who have been following the salary saga involving the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and Members of County Assembly (MCAs)  must feel disappointed by the decision of the SRC Chairperson Sarah Serem to almost double the emoluments of county  officials.

They must be disappointed because Serem has failed to put her foot down and has continued to cajole and soft-soap elected officials, and buckle down to political pressure even as she pretends to talk tough about how Kenya is "overburdened by huge, unaffordable and unsustainable remunerations."

Kenyans must also feel betrayed because Serem's announcement came only a few days after the government froze recruitments and stopped adjustments of salaries and allowance for civil servants as a way of reducing the ballooning wage bill, a subject she is passionate about, at least on paper. The message coming out of State House, therefore, is that SRC has failed to stop the hemorrhaging of State coffers.

The SRC was established in 2010 with the mandate of, among other things, ensuring that the total public compensation bill is fiscally sustainable."

Early this year, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto took over a government that had a lot of pending issues that are now threatening to derail the ambitious Jubilee manifesto.

The SRC Chair must be aware of the following: a public debt of 2.1 trillion shillings; an external loan of 889.31 billion; a budget deficit of 356 billion; and a wage bill of 450 billion. These are obligations that must be sorted out. Right now Kenya is spending 74 percent of its budget on recurrent expenditure leaving very little for development. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know, given these figures, that the country is in a fiscal jam and cannot withstand any additional expenditure.

But in negotiations with the Senate Devolution Committee a few days ago, Serem succumbed to pressure and agreed to hike MCA salaries from 79,000 to 123,750 shillings. She also allowed an additional 124,800 shillings per month for allowances and 39,528 for mileage, and increased the sitting allowance.

My view is that the increases are a waste of public funds and detrimental to the country's economic well being. Whether the representatives are Public officers or State officers does not matter. Their salaries come from the tax payers.

Serem's performance has not been impressive. Outwardly, she appears to be made of steel but her actions do not support that. When Members of Parliament took her to task over their salary demands, the long-time expert on human resources management talked tough until the legislators threatened to disband the SRC and send her and all commissioners home. It was then that she climbed down and negotiated perks that turned out to be much higher that what the legislators had asked for in the first place. This time around she has been arm-twisted to agree to a deal she knows would further burden the Exchequer.

What all this tells me is that Serem has lost control of SRC. She has allowed political mandarins to overrun her jurisdiction, making the Commission a virtual toothless bull-dog. In my opinion, she cannot be expected to help the government tackle the wage bill woes.

On the other hand, the county representatives are a thankless lot. By turning down the original salary - and rubbishing the latest offer - they have demonstrated a boorish attitude towards the people who elected them and shown disrespect to their country. There are many qualified Kenyans who would be willing to serve for half the 79,000 shillings.

To add salt to injury, the county leaders have been boycotting work, only showing up at the cashier's office at the end of the month to collect salaries.

The fact that Kenyans continue to tolerate this kind of behaviour shows how much we have lost the fighting spirit.

And that is my say.