This week, Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Lyn Mengich responds to your questions.
1. Madam, one of the biggest contributors to the ballooning public wage bill is the insistence of senior government officials to hire full-time consultants and advisers for every imaginable thing. Often, this happens yet there are career civil servants who can perform the same tasks, say for example, communication in government. In order to keep the public wage bill at manageable level, what is SRC doing about the many consultants and advisers in government who are taking civil servants’ jobs? David M. Ombuor, Homa Bay
The public wage bill is a factor of the number of public officers and amount of pay.
Whereas SRC is in charge of pay, Public Service Commission (PSC) and other employing bodies are mandated to establish and abolish offices, thus controlling numbers in the public service.
2. In almost all industrial action by public officials, for example nurses and teachers, SRC is bashed by striking workers for being the stumbling block for negotiations. What do you say to these accusations and what role does SRC play in negotiations for collective bargaining agreements (CBA)? Brian Macharia, Murang’a
The remunerative items negotiated in CBAs are under the purview of SRC, whose role is to ensure that the remuneration and benefits components of CBAs conform to the constitutional principles spelt out in law.
The commission therefore sets beacons for CBA negotiations.
However, on several occasions, institutions get into negotiations and agreement with respective employers without consulting SRC.
This brings a stalemate between these bodies, resulting in workers strikes. To avoid this situation, it is important that institutions adhere to the law and follow the due process of CBA negotiations.
3. Recently, you were quoted as considering Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism as an option to handle the stalemate brought about by the Parliamentary Service Commission when it paid legislators house allowances without approval from your commission. However, many taxpayers feel that such a move may not achieve much going by the utterances of the legislators, including the Speaker of the National Assembly who heads the PSC. Madam, in the circumstances, will Kenyans ever get reprieve on this matter? Komen Moris, Uasin Gishu
Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR) is one of the actions and does not exclude pursuing the matter in court.
The intention of the commission is to ensure that payments outside the law is stopped and recovery is undertaken.
4. In setting salaries and allowances of public officials, is there any legal requirement that you consult with the institution/organisation involved to understand their financial position before setting the ceiling? If so, why the frequent strike notices by public workers, especially teachers and non-academic staff in public universities? Githuku Mungai
The SRC is mandated to advise on remuneration and benefits in the public sector.
In determining pay, the Commission is required to consider fiscal sustainability of public wage bill, affordability and equity among other factors.
In view of this, SRC considers the financial status of public institutions to ascertain affordability.
Strikes are often a result of demands that are not within parameters advised by SRC in line with the principles as set out in Article 230 of the Constitution.
5. Why is the SRC reluctant to issue a green light for the harmonisation of allowances for members of the Kenya Prisons service which are currently set at Sh7,000 for the rank of Prisons Constable compared to the Sh9,000 currently being enjoyed by their counterparts of a similar rank in the National Police Service? Andrew Maranga Ratemo, Kilifi
The SRC addresses all matters concerning remuneration and benefits brought to its attention by public service entities in a fair and objective manner and analyses each case on its own merit.
The commission has initiated the process of reviewing allowances in the public service.
Once this exercise is completed, it will be rolled out to the public service with the objective of bringing about fairness and harmony in payment of allowances.
The prisons issues will be addressed with other public service allowances.
6. Two years ago, the President and Deputy President announced that they had accepted salary cuts as an example of how to manage the public wage bill. They even challenged other senior government officers in the national government and in counties to follow suit and spare the country the burden of overspending in recurrent instead of development expenditure. Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries too were roped in. Could you update us if this was ever implemented and how this money is collected and where it is spent? Dan Murugu, Nakuru
Salary cuts were on a voluntary basis. The resultant savings were returned to the National Treasury whose mandate is to allocate public funds.
The SRC applauds the gesture of embracing pay cuts and any other measures that would deter a rise in the wage bill.
7. Since 2013, counties have been lamenting about the huge wage bills and bloated workforce. But, for instance, Nakuru County conducted a biometric registration of staff and not a single ghost worker was discovered out of that expensive exercise conducted by PriceWaterHouse Coopers. What is your commission proposing and suggesting to counties on the issue of rationalising of personnel? Dan Murugu, Nakuru.
Rationalisation of personnel in the public service is the purview of other public institutions - Public Service Commission (PSC) at the national level and the County Public Service Board (CPSB) in the counties.
8. Regarding MPs’ decision to irregularly award themselves house allowances, following your statement that SRC would recover the monies already paid out, some MPs have been quoted in the media saying that they will not refund any single cent given to them in form of house allowances. What options are available to SRC to recover the monies from MPs? Edward B. Wekesa, Kisumu
The SRC will be going to court seeking to stop the payment and refund of monies already paid.
9. The SRC issued a circular on health service allowance for healthcare workers. However, this was not addressed to vice chancellors in universities offering health-related courses. Owing to the clinical nature of these courses, is it legal for vice chancellors to withhold the allowance from the trainers? If not, what are the measures you would take to ensure compliance? Wigina Ronald
The health service allowance is applicable to specific cadres of health personnel working in health facilities and not those in administration and other fields.
10. Madam, there is a perception that SRC spends a lot of time talking about MPs’ pay and less on other Kenyans who are equally deserving workers. Why is this so? Francis Njuguna, Kiambu
The scope of SRC’s mandate is clearly spelt out in Article 230 of the Constitution, covering both State Officers and Public Officers.
Whereas the case of MPs’ pay receives a lot of media and public attention, their case is just but one of the many cases that the commission receives and handles.
The commission sets and reviews remuneration and benefits of state officers.
In addition, the commission regularly reviews and advises on remuneration and benefits of other public officers at national and county governments.
11. MPs draw several other allowances besides this self-imposed monthly house allowance of Sh250,000. Are MPs, like other state and public officers, entitled to a house allowance? What will the Salaries and Remuneration Commission do to contain this behaviour by lawmakers of rewarding themselves every now and then despite the hard times ordinary Kenyans are going through? Jotham Muriithi, Kirinyaga
Yes, the MPs are entitled to house allowance; that is why MPs get a gross pay that comprises basic salary and allowances, inclusive of house allowance.
Any payment of house allowance outside the gross pay is not only unconstitutional but amounts to double payment of an allowance that is already included in the gross pay.
The SRC will be going to court seeking to stop the payment and refund of monies already paid.
12. For years, house allowance has been set based on the region where one works, yet the rental rates are now almost equal in all regions. What is the commission doing to harmonise these allowances? Nathan Muthamia, Tharaka Nithi
The commission is in the process of reviewing allowances in the public institutions in Kenya and will advise on outcomes once the exercise is completed.
13. Your commission has expressed its intention to scrap some allowances enjoyed by public officials, yet there is a universal understanding any change in law or policies that affects an employee’s terms of employment should not disadvantage the employee. How will the commission implement the proposal to do away with some allowances without affecting the employees and attracting their wrath through disruptive industrial action? Vincent Kuria, Nairobi
Addressing allowances in the public service will be done within the law. Stakeholders will be engaged in the review process and any pertinent issues will be addressed before implementation.
14. Madam, the cost of living is getting higher and higher every day while the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) more often than not doesn’t want to entertain requests for pay review for public officials, claiming that doing so would make the wage bill unsustainable. What you fail to acknowledge is that the real cause of budget constraints is not the salaries and allowances but corruption. At the end of the day, pay review for public officials is frozen while corruption thrives. How can the commission convince Kenyans that there is no money to pay public servants when a few people are stealing billions of shillings every year? Mohamed Hussein, Isiolo
Cost of living is addressed through the automatic annual pay increase.
Any additional increase is subject to the principles of fiscal sustainability, ability to attract and retain skills, rewarding performance and productivity, fairness, transparency and equal pay to persons for work of equal value.
The public wage bill currently stands at 50 per cent of revenue against a target of 35 per cent set in the Public Finance Management Act.
The concern of SRC is to ensure that the public wage bill does not crowd out resources for development and service delivery.