Archive | March, 2014

NAVIGATING THE HIGH WAGE BILL BEHEMOTH: INEQUALITIES, POLITICS AND POVERTY IN KENYA

11 Mar

By Javas Bigambo

It is a fitting pilgrimage to managing the otherwise high wage bill. There was incredible wisdom in establishing the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, enshrined in Article 248 of Chapter 15 of the Constitution, under Commissions and Independent Offices.

The SRC was established in a bid to harmonise the salaries of state officers in the context of fairness across the board. This, sadly, has not happened.
In fact, if we really were to carry out an audit of the SRC, we may ultimately appreciate that from the time they took office, they have performed dismally, and have yielded to political wheeler-dealership that is the bane of its mandate.

To properly carry out this mandate, the SRC must perform a social-political and fiscal balancing act. In this government, everything is bloated, from the size of government to allowances of top public servants.
There has been barely any parsimony by Kenya’s successive governments since independence, and sadly, that had created a tradition of wasteful government spending, brazen flouting of procurement laws, and sadistic absence or punitive measures to punish the prudish profligate government spenders.

Even the lousiest political economist knows the fundamentals of the macroeconomic and the expansionary fiscal contraction theories as drivers of effective wage bill management, especially in respect to austerity measures.
When Members of Parliament are skimming to make tactful moves so as to be declassified as state officers, solely to eschew having their salaries reviewed by the SRC, their selfishness stinks to the clear high heavens.

Pray, why should Members of Parliament be paid allowances for every sitting to perform duties for which they were elected, atop the monthly salaries they earn? It is like a receptionist at an office having a monthly salary, and being paid allowances for every phone call she answers and every desk she wipes and every computer she starts or every document she types. That is simply her work.
The high public wage bill has remains one of the drivers of inequality and poverty in Kenya, stifling even the national development agenda.

The public debate on the wage bill that the president has kicked off is necessary but it unfortunately a late and very minimal attempt to reign in on the run-away wage bill.

President Kenyatta must think of ways to dealing with the high wage bill once and for all, since the SRC is proving itself a lame duck.

President Kenyatta must think of ways to dealing with the high wage bill once and for all, since the SRC is proving itself a lame duck.


If it is a sincere effort beyond mouth-deep pontification, then the head of state should:
1. Have his motorcade and that of the Deputy President downsized.
2. Stop government purchase of high end cars that are costly to maintain.
3. Unleash an executive, nay, presidential fiat that would choke the MPs by having them earn just salaries without allowances.
4. Reduce the platoon of security officers who have been deployed to guard top level security officers.
5. Revisit and if possible rescind the government’s agreement on the hitherto contentious Railway Gauge Tender.
6. Have satanic, or rather, grievous consequences meted on all those public officers who still from the tax payers by flouting procurement laws.
7. Reject any Bill that shall be brought for his assent that will ever seek to declassify MPs, MCAs and Judges as state officers.

Further, to effectively manage the wage bill behemoth, we as a nation need to candidly consider and commence a national conversation on the need to review and adjust downwards Kenya’s political class and making the system more functional. President Kenyatta now needs a little more Machiavellian toughness, more of Putin’s rigidity, Stalinist bravado and the suaveness of Bill Clinton.

I have also heard some politicians quietly and perceptively commence a discussion on the need for a referendum. A referendum? Who really needs it? What will be the referendum question on which to vote? Who will lead the drive? If the answers to these questions have the sole captainship of politicians then let us reject the call for referendum. If really we need a referendum on anything, then it is essentially to reduce the number of counties, reduce the number of MPs and the number of Constitutional Commissions. That will be one of the ways to eternally deal with the high wage bill mongrel.
MPs Greed
In the next few days we shall have the SRC moving across counties to lead the public debate of the wage bill. The commission will spend as much as it can, with its commissioners drawing hefty allowances, then thereafter retreat a Five Star hotel to draft a report, even though they have a big board room, or they could even use City Hall. Then they will have a flamboyant state ceremony to make public the report. Total wastage.

The SRC knows already what Kenyans want, as I have crisply stated herein above. Period. The rest is much like carrying out a survey to find out if it is important for students to wear shoes in school. This dismaying appetite for commission reports that have a legendary reputation of gathering dust after being launched should be punishable.

Let the public debate on the wage bill go on, but we must not forget the recent report by the Auditor General on sadistic spending by county governments. If 300 Billion could be wasted by counties in a period between March 2013-June 2013, really how much can be wasted in a year?

Let county governments have something to show for all expenditure, foreign travels and training conducted. Accountability should be the 11th commandment in government. Kenyans need to take to task the 47 governors and the President, who is the head of state, over the wastage of public money, including the Auditor General’s report.
Whenever the President returns from state visits, we as a people need to make him tell us what his trip achieved and how the outcome of the trip will move the country forward.

We need genuine spending cuts, reduction in salaries and allowances, and do everything for public good. The SRC should come up with seesaw proposals that must be implemented and work with measures that do not quash basic common sense.

The writer of this article can be reached through jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke