The Cabinet is back from its one week retreat, and if the President’s speech is any indication dealing with the country’s public wage bill is high on the government’s agenda.
Unless you live under a rock it’s likely that you know or have heard, that two of the highest paid public sector workers (the President and the Deputy President) will be taking a 20% wage cut, the Cabinet will also be taking 10% pay cut all effective immediately.
It seems that since the President’s speech, the offers to take salary cuts are coming in droves: Senator Kithure Kindiki has stated that he is ready to take a 30% salary cut, and proposed that the commissioners and their deputies take similar cuts. Majority Leader, Aden Duale, has stated that he is willing to take a 15% pay cut should the National Assembly fail to pass bill to reduce the salaries of parliamentarians, he has also suggested reducing the number the number of constitutional commissions as well as salary cuts for those who sit on those commissions.
The Majority Leader has also stated the National Assembly would be willing to meet with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to discuss the issue of the public sector wage bill.
However all this talk of salary cuts seems populist and amnesiac at best, and at worst an ineffective way of the dealing with the public sector wage bill.
Populist because State Officers salaries and particularly MPs salaries have been sticking point for most of the Kenyan public for several administrations, and a 20% pay cut in the salaries of the highest earning state officers seems a bit like a public relations stunt as it is unlikely to make a significant dent in the public sector wage bill. Let’s assume that the President earns a salary of 2 million shillings per month a 20% pay cut is only 400,000 shillings hardly likely to make a dent in a wage bill that costs the country and tax payers billions of shillings annually.
Amnesiac because at the beginning of this administration the Salaries and Remuneration Commission made and gazetted salary cuts for state officers. State Officers then fought the salary cut tooth and nail and in the end salaries for all State Officers including those at county level was well above the SRC recommendations. Also it seems this move seems to forget that there is a Commission mandated to determine and review the salaries of all State Officers and the National Assembly has been trying to disband this body for its stance on salaries.
The salary cut declarations may be an ineffective way of dealing with the public wage bill. For one these declarations fail to address the issue of untaxed allowances which form a large part of the public wage bill. The salary cut declarations are neither legislated nor institutionalised so what’s to say they will be followed? Further the declarations do little to empower the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the body constitutionally mandated to review determine salaries of State officers, and makes it seem like state officers are doing Kenyans a favour by agreeing to salary cuts, when that is clearly not the case.