Kenyans will fork out at least Sh3.125 billion a year to pay salaries for members of commissions if the package demanded by the Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) is endorsed.
The demand by the Charles Nyachae team for what the government considers “exorbitant” salary arrears has turned focus on the cost of maintaining the commission and triggered murmurs that the commissions are being turned into a gravy train.
Five CIC commissioners led by vice-chairperson Dr Elizabeth Muli last Tuesday said they had not been paid for seven months and accused the Head of Public Service, Mr Francis Muthaura, of blocking their payment.
This means taxpayers should be prepared to bear a huge wage burden in the effort to implement the Constitution.
The Constitution provides for at least 15 commissions in addition to independent offices such as the attorney-general, director of public prosecutions, director of budget and auditor general.
The CIC is demanding Sh1.3 million per month for chairman Charles Nyachae, Sh1.17 million for the vice-chair and Sh1.14 for the other seven commissioners. The salary bill for commissioners would be Sh10.45 million per month (Sh125 million annually).
Twenty-five commissions are to be established to fully implement the Constitution. Each commission would have a maximum of nine commissioners who may opt to work full or part-time. Using the CIC scale, the government would therefore spend Sh3.125 billion annually on commissioners’ salaries.
In addition to salaries, each commissioner will receive medical cover paid for by the State and government vehicles.
The government has indicated that it will not pay the salaries the CIC team is demanding, arguing they are exorbitant, above normal rates for other state officers and unsustainable.
“The government has asked the Public Service Commission and the Treasury to review the proposed salaries downwards to more sustainable levels that are a reflection of our poor economy and reality,” said Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua.
“The main issue is not payment of salaries to the commission but the proposed amount of money being asked for and we fear that members of all other commissions will demand similar compensation.”
Dr Mutua argued that the constitution implementation process is critical but the commissioners should ask for affordable packages.
But Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo says salaries will be paid as agreed with the PSC and the Treasury until the proposed Salaries and Remuneration Commission is established.
The minister said the Constitution Implementation Commission Act did not give Mr Muthaura any role in determining the commissioners’ salaries.
Dr Muli blamed Mr Muthaura for directing Treasury not to pay the salaries.
“The directive by the head of public service amounts to instructing ministries to violate the law. It is a clear demonstration that the head of Public Service is living in the old dispensation, full of impunity and hellbent on violating the Constitution,” she said.
A letter by Mr Muthaura to Mr Nyachae suggested that though the salaries had been approved by the PSC and Treasury, they were too high.
“I wish to remind the commissioners that in determining the level of pay, the government will always be guided by the prevailing economic circumstances while appreciating the role of the commission and other players in implementation of the new Constitution,” the letter said.
The CIC commissioners said that, unlike other public servants in their bracket who do not pay taxes and benefit from sitting allowances, their salaries would be taxed. And they will not be entitled to sitting allowances.
The commission has asked the auditor general to establish the status of funds allocated to them in the last financial year.
They said they would not process key Bills required by the end of the year unless they are funded to set up a secretariat.
The expected Bills include the National Service Bill, National Security Council Bill, National Intelligence Service Bill as well as legislation on land, public finance, leadership and integrity and devolution.
The National Council of NGOs has petitioned the government to pay the salaries and challenged Mr Muthaura to declare his monthly salary and interest in the matter.
“The commission has a right to demand the salaries and allowances it negotiated with the government,” said NGO council chairman Mr Ken Wafula.
A letter by the Public Service Commission on the salaries shows that members of the Nyachae team fall under Band A1 of the Salaries and Remuneration Act.
Under the band, Mr Nyachae would receive Sh849,000 basic salary, Sh140,000 house allowance, Sh120,000 entertainment allowance and a domestic staff allowance of Sh15,600.
In addition, the CIC boss would be paid Sh120,000 extraneous allowance and Sh65,000 for leave.
The basic salary of the other commissioners would be Sh782,220 with Sh110,000 as house allowance, Sh100,000 (entertainment), Sh85,000 (extraneous), Sh15,600 (domestic staff) and Sh50,000 leave allowance.
Besides the commissioners, the State will have to hire technical staff for the commissions’ secretariats.
A copy of a circular by the Prime Minister’s office to Treasury and Mr Muthaura shows that officers of the rank of chief justice and attorney-general fall under Band A1.
Notably, the heads of independent commissions such as Mr Issack Hassan of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and Appeal Court judges and the Controller and Auditor General are under Band A2 with a basic salary of Sh576,000.
Members of the electoral commission earn a basic salary of Sh481,000. Public servants in this group earn a maximum of Sh916,500 with allowances totalling Sh442,000.