Entries from May 27th, 2013

On MPs threats to disband the Salaries and Remuneration Commission

Posted by on 27th May 2013

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South Igembe MP, Mithika Linturi, has brought to the floor of the National Assembly a petition to have the Salaries and Remuneration Commission disbanded.

In his petition the MP asks for “for the removal of Sarah Jepkemboi Chumo Serem as the Chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the removal of Daniel Ogutu, Sellestine Kiuluku, Serah Kinyua, Retired Brig. Samuel Ndururi, Isaiah Kubai,Jacqueline Mugo, Ann Elizabeth Owuor, Peter Oloo Aringo, Jason Namasake, Joseph Kinyua, Titus Ndambuki and Wanjuki Muchemi as members of the SRC.”

The reasons the South Igembe MP gives for his petition to remove the SRC chair and the commissioners is alleged: violation of the Constitution, violation of the law, gross misconduct in the performance of their functions; and serious incompetence in the performance of their duties.

Among those who supported the petition were MPs Jakoyo Midiwo, Aden Duale, Jimmy Angwenyi, Gladys Nyasuna, Adan Keynan.

It seems that MPs have forgotten the reason behind having an independent commission determine the salaries for state officials. In fact the MPs are doing now, i.e. demanding higher salaries as their first order of business, then threatening the independent body that is mandated to set the salaries of State Officers, is the precise reason why it is imperative that their salaries be determined by an independent body.

If determination of the MPs salaries were left up to the MPs, or a body beholden to MPs, as in the old dispensation, the debate over MPs salaries would have been a moot one or at the very least a one-sided one. Going from past history it would have been no trouble to garner a majority vote on the floor to increase MPs salaries. As it is only one MP, Muthomi Njuki, has spoken against the members bid to have their salaries increased.

The full text of the petition for the removal of the Salaries and remuneration Commission can be read here.

In the meantime since the Speaker has allowed the petition, and parliament has debated and approved it. The petition has now been forwarded to the one of parliament’s departmental committees. The committee will now prepare and present a report on the issue in 14 days. If the National Assembly accepts the report, the Speaker will the forward the recommendations made in the report to the President, who has the option to suspend the above mentioned members of the SRC and while their conduct is investigated by a tribunal.

We’ll be watching…

Occupy Parliament: Did the Police violate the Right to Protest?

Posted by on 20th May 2013

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The protest was in response to continual demands by members of the 11th Parliament to their salaries returned to that of parliamentarians in the 10 parliament. A demand that is neither sustainable nor supported by a majority of Kenyans (an Ipsos Synovate survey shows that 88% of Kenyans support the protest.

The protests of old were are fraught with violence tear gas thrown, running battles between police and protestors. The Occupy Parliament protest in comparison seemed well organised and conspicuously unaggressive: the pigs spray painted with the MPs names and the moniker MPigs signifying the MPs greed, It was however successful in delivering the point, it’s unreasonable for MPs to demand a higher pay when they already a salary several times greater than the average Kenyan.

However despite the fact that Occupy Parliament was a planned peaceful protest with the requisite permits and permissions granted, some of the protestors were subjected to police violence. The police fired tear gas, sprayed the protestors with water cannons and television footage showed a police officer beating up a protester. So while the protest was a legal one, it seems the police did not get the memo.

The right to protest is an indispensible part of a civil and democratic society, and is a legal and valid way to express dissent. The right is articulated in Article 37 of the constitution on assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition. The Article states, “Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.”

Police Spokesman Charles Owino, while condemning the protestors has assured the public that that the police officers involved attacking the protestors would be held to account stating “They will have to say who gave them the orders or take individual responsibility for their actions.”

We’ll be watching.

Meanwhile MP Aden Duale has threaten to sue the protestors for associating the MPs with pigs (read story here).

Should MPs Run the Constituency Development Fund?

Posted by on 17th May 2013

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Last week MPs vowed to amend the CDF to give themselves more control over the funds. However on wonders at the effectiveness of the fund when it was under the management of the MPs, or even whether MPs should be administering the CDF fund, or whether we even need a CDF fund given new devolved structures?

CDF was created to encourage development and ensure community participation in development at constituency. By bypassing central bureaucracies and channel funding directly to community level it was thought that the CDF would allow MPs to respond directly to the developmental demands of and from their constituents.

Whether this has been achieved is questionable. A bit over 70 billion shillings has been allocated to CDF since its inception with varying results as far as tangible development is concerned. How well the CDF was used in the past varied from constituency to constituency, however one defining feature remained MPs had substantial control over the distribution and application of the funds

MPs involvement in the administration of CDF in the old dispensation was problematic to say the least, from accusations that MPs handpicked members of the CDF boards from among their cronies, and the fact the how the CDF was spent was heavily dependent on the MP with little or no input from the constituents. In many instances CDF failed to reach/benefit those who needed it most. Add to this the lack of transparency, accountability, and the billions lost through corruption involving CDF, strong arguments can be made for changing the way in which CDF is administered or scrapping it altogether.

The new regulations in the CDF Act 2013 change the role of MPs with regard to the administration of the CDF. Under the Act, MPs can no longer allocate projects, MP no longer appoint the CDF board, the constituents themselves to propose membership to CDF committee, and the projects to which CDF is allocated are decided on a priority basis.

In addition administration of CDF has been effectively transferred from MPs to a CDF official, who will act as the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) and who will be accountable for any loss or embezzlement of the money. MPs will still sit on committees CDF but only as ex-official members exercising only the oversight role on projects.

It should be noted that CIC, the body in charge of the constitutional implementation has voiced its concerned with the unconstitutionality of the act and the existence of CDF. CDF is not provided for by the constitution under a devolved system of government one questions the need for CDF, isn’t the devolved system of government supposed to bring both finances and services closer to the people making the CDF redundant. – Read the CIC’s statement on the unconstitutionality of the CDF Act 2013 here.

Nevertheless MPs are/ and will be fighting to retain control of the CDF fund, Thika MP Alice Nganga, Nyaribari Chache MP Chris Bichage and Gwassi MP John Mbadi have voiced their intention to fight the new CDF regulations. MP Alice Nganga argued:

“The Kenyans who elected me don’t come to this board demanding for education bursaries, money to repair health centres… they know Alice is the one we elected and they don’t want to hear anything else,” he said. Members of Parliament have until May 13 to organise the election of their Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committees which will oversee projects to be prioritised in their areas.

The Speaker Justin Muturi advised MPs unhappy with the CDF law to propose amendments “If you feel so strongly about this, you have the power to do something about it because this law is a creature of this House, you can make it better.”

What do you think should MPs run the CDF?

MPs vs. the Salaries and Remuneration Commission: Does Your MP Deserve a Higher Salary?

Posted by on 3rd May 2013

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MPs have and never had an easy relationship with the independent commissions. In the last administration we saw members of parliament continually butt heads with both the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution. It seems that in the new Parliament the battle between the MPs and the independent commissions’ rages on, this time between Parliamentarians and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission over the MPs Salaries.

Before the election the Salaries and Remuneration Commission revised the salaries of the new Members of the National Assembly downwards. And it seems that for most of the period since the new Members were sworn in they have been fighting to get a salaries raised to the previous levels i.e. that of some of the highest paid MPs in the world.

In making a case for increased salary on the floor of the house the MP for Kitutu Chache North Jimmy Angwenyi argued that Article 160 of the constitution prevents the SRC from reviewing salaries of the MPs downward stating, “we [MPs] are being bashed left, right and centre by everybody that we are seeking increment of our salaries. You know and everybody reasonable knows that we are not seeking an increase in our salaries. We are only saying that let us maintain our salaries at the level that was obtaining in the last Parliament until the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) brings a legal order to change our salaries and, in fact, not to change it adversely against us. This is because the Constitution forbids that. Now, Article 160 of the Constitution states clearly that you cannot adjust the salary of a State officer to his or her disadvantage.”

Actually Article 160 of the constitution is quite specific to judiciary and states specifically “the remuneration and benefits payable to, or in respect of, a judge shall not be varied to the disadvantage of that judge, and the retirement benefits of a retired judge shall not be varied to the disadvantage of the retired judge during the lifetime of that retired judge.” The Article on construction and intention does not apply to all State Officers.

Another member Kamama Asman Abongotum made the argument that Salaries can never be adjusted downward stating that better remunerated MPs would do a better job, “Salaries all over the world can never be on a downward trajectory. They are always on an upward trajectory unless you are in a failed state like Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. Since Kenya has a stable economy, let us not joke about performance. Let us pay Members of Parliament very well, so that they can deliver up to midnight, just the way we delivered in the last Parliament. Looking at the current remuneration package for Members of Parliament, one realises that the members of staff of this Assembly have better terms than parliamentarians. We want them to have those better terms but we want parliamentarians to be given their rightful share as enshrined in the Constitution and as recommended by the Akiwumi Commission and the Cocker Commission.”

Not surprisingly no MP has made the argument for accepting the SRC’s new salary scale for MPs. If the MPs got their salaries returned to the level paid the former house they would receive almost Sh1 million per month. One could quibble about the  xact shilling amount that MPs should earn however the bigger question is do the MPs deserve to have a higher salary that the SRC prescribed basic salary of Sh532,500 per month?

Thoughts?

On the Cabinet Secretary Nominees

Posted by on 29th April 2013

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It is not really surprising that the process of nominating Cabinet Secretaries took as long as it did or that there were continued delays during the nomination process itself. While the government may not be a coalition government in the traditional sense i.e. where parties form a coalition after an election, it is a government that is made up of a coalition of parties, with a 50-50 power sharing agreement. The implication being that behind the matching shirts and ties we saw during the announcement of the first 4 nominees a fair amount of negotiating about who would make the final list of nominees probably went on.

After all the delays 16 out of 18 nominations for the post of Cabinet Secretary have been made leaving only two positions (Interior & Co-ordination of National Government and Labour, Social Security & Services) to be announced. If the Cabinet nominees make it through the appointment process it will be a cabinet of mostly new faces and proportionally more women than there have been in previous cabinets.

6 out of the 18 Cabinet Secretary nominees are women and the nominees are mostly new faces with the exception of nominee of the Cabinet Secretary for Mining, Najib Balala, who has previously run 4 Ministries and is a career politician. And nominee for Cabinet Secretary for Land, Housing and Urban Development, Charity Ngilu, who was Member of Parliament for Kitui Central Constituency for 20 years and is the former Minister of Water, Irrigation as well as a former Minister of Health. One wonders if their record of performance in the running of these Ministries will come up during the vetting process.

Kudos to the new administration for the nomination of women, and on the new faces however the issue has been raised on how representative of the country the Cabinet nominees are. Section 130 (2) of the constitution requires the composition of the National Executive, “reflect the regional and ethnic diversity of the people of Kenya” and this is where is the nominations have drawn most criticism. According to the Standard the MPs from “the Maasai and Samburu communities and Deputy Minority leader in the National Assembly Jakoyo Midiwo, said the Assembly would reject the names unless President Uhuru Kenyatta revises the list.”

This is of course significant, why? Unlike before when the members of the cabinet were unilaterally appointed by the President, this time parliament as to approve the list of nominees before the nominees can be appointed. So nomination is just the first stage in the appointment of Cabinet secretaries; the Cabinet nominees still have to be vetted by the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments and the public, in keeping with the section 118 (1) (b) of the constitution that requires Parliament to facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of Parliament and its committees.

The speaker of the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has confirmed that the public will be consulted on suitability of Cabinet nominees. Public hearings on the nominees for Cabinet Secretaries will take place over a seven-day period at a venue in Nairobi that is yet to be announced. “The Speaker shall give a communication from the chair forwarding the names to the Committee on Appointments, which will issue a notice through the Clerk of the National Assembly inviting members of the public to give their views on the proposed names.”

What are your thoughts on the Cabinet Secretary nominees?

Find the Profiles for the nominees here – http://www.scribd.com/doc/137564995/Cabinet-Secretaries-Nominees-CVs  and here ­- http://www.scribd.com/doc/137909381/Cabinet-Secretary-Nominees-CV-s-Part-2

New Government Promises to Keep Track Of (Part 1)

Posted by on 22nd April 2013

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The President has officially opened the 11th Parliament. During his speech the President restated many of the promises made during the course of his Presidential campaign, as well as those made to Kenyans during his inauguration speech.

There was no road map of how these promises will be achieved, probably because of time limitations, however the promises are significant and if kept would drastically change the lives of Kenyans for the better if kept. So here’s what to look out for:

Transforming Kenya in to a middle income country within the next generation: According to the World Bank Kenya is currently a low income country – the country’s gross national income stands at $1,025 or less. The government intends to within 25 years, a generation, transform the country into a middle income one (gross national income $1,026 – $4,035). While this may seem implausible it is not impossible. In 2010 Ghana and Zambia were upgraded from low income status to middle income status.

Prudent management of the public finances including the wage bill: Financially we are not doing great, the country’s debt is growing, the treasury recently asked the IMF for a waiver on payment of loans for the second time in the six months, the government wage bill is unsustainable, the cost of living is really high and yet MPs and Governors are still pushing for higher salaries.

In his speech the President spoke specifically to these issues including the need to keep the public wage ‘in check’ to reduce the recurrent expenditure.  The President stated specifically that, “all arms of Government must set the example and lead the way in bringing this wage bill down”

Hopefully this promise includes a commitment to sticking to the remuneration guidelines for MPs, Governors and Senators.

An industrial revolution? The potential for one certainly exists we have a large more or less educated work force, geographically we are in a great position to be an export hub, regional integration gives us cheap access to markets within East Africa however infrastructure issues, electricity issues, corruption issues, and poor economic policies have prevented us having an industrial revolution.

In his speech the President highlighted the need to address the above stating, “We must establish a first class logistics hub, covering transport, roads, railways, waterways, Our overarching goal is the transformation of our economy, so that our exports compete across the world and drive the growth necessary to create jobs for our youth and lift 10 million of our brothers and sisters out of poverty by 2017.”

This included promises of the establishing a logistics hub, modernising agriculture, diversifying exports, creating new products, getting what we paid for procurement wise (see: BVR kits),  creating a friendly investment/business environment, expanding markets and creating regional partnerships, investing more in people, and reducing the cost of living.

Transparency and Corruption: It’s no secret that we have serious issues with transparency the constitution goes some way to rectifying the transparency issue and has worked to make appointment and recruitment process for state officers more transparent. However the constitution is not self implementing document. Despite its provision on access to information on government processes remain as opaque as ever let’s take for instance tendering and procurement processes. Accountability and corruption have also been major issues, case in point though we have had several cases in which high level have been implicated there have been few prosecutions of said people.

The new President is his speech promised to “run an honest and transparent government, with public services that are open and accountable to the people who use” and to “work with the Judiciary in fast tracking and deepening the reforms that are in progress to secure access to justice for all Kenyans and promote a society where every person enjoys equal protection of the law.”

We’ll be watching.

On the Government Promise of Laptops

Posted by on 19th April 2013

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During his speech at the opening of the 11th Parliament President Uhuru Kenyatta reiterated his promise to provide everyone standard one child with a laptop beginning next year stating.

To quote him, his government, “has committed itself to delivering on the promise of free laptops for our standard one children starting next year. Some have said that this is too ambitious. I say that we cannot afford to leave any of our children without tools to compete in the digital age. Yes, our ambition is great but the scale of that ambition is the only one sufficient to meet the scale of our nation’s challenge. As such, I call upon both Houses to work with me to ensure that in future, the laptops we provide are assembled locally.”

By the President’s own admission the plan, to begin providing every standard one child with a laptop next year, is an ambitious one however it should be noted that the idea is not a novel one. A few years ago the United Nations Development Programme backed a one laptop per child project. In 2012 Rwanda launched a one laptop per child programme. In 2010 a partnership between One Laptop per Child and the East African Community was formed with the aim to deliver 30 million laptops in the region by 2015.

However the question for Kenya is that though that the scale of the ambition may be sufficient to meet the scale of the nation’s challenge, can we afford it and is it sustainable?

On the issue of affordability, as a country we are 1.8 trillion shillings in debt, the Treasury recently ask the International Monetary Fund to waive public debt for the second time in six months. 1.2 million children start standard one every year, according to Google the cheapest laptops cost about USD$100. So giving every standard one child a laptop would cost the government USD $12 million, that’s almost 10 billion shillings next year alone.

Then there is the issue of electricity need to charge the laptops. It’s a fact that even in the country’s Metropolis, is electricity which is necessary to charge the laptops, is sporadic at best, and in some rural areas there is no electricity at all, unless the government is planning to correct this by next year, there is going to be a big problem charging the laptops. Of course the laptops could be solar charged, however enough solar panels, and convertors to charge to laptops for 1.2 million children would increase the price of laptops exponentially.

Apart from affordability and sustainability issues there are issues of priorities nationally, but even just within the education sector given our context and educational needs, is the provision of laptops for every standard one child really a priority. Public education has major quality issues, which the provision of laptops to standard one children will not rectify, take for instance the teacher student ratio.

So while the ambition to provide every standard one child with a laptop is laudable, maybe it needs to be rethought.

On the Appointment of Cabinet Secretaries

Posted by on 12th April 2013

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Under the constitution the Cabinet consists of the President, the Deputy President, the Attorney General and 14-22 Cabinet Secretaries. Since the Presidential inauguration this week, the first three of these positions has been filled so all that leaves the filling of the 14-22 Cabinet Secretary post for a full Cabinet to be formed.

Since his inauguration, two days ago, the President has dismissed the old cabinet – Permanent secretaries will be taking over the dockets until the new Cabinet is appointed – and the parliamentary committee that is going to vet the nominees for cabinet has been set up. So it’s all systems go out with old and in with the new…maybe

The composition of the Cabinet, at least with regards to Cabinet Secretaries (formerly ministers) is going to be different from what we are used to: for one thing there are less Cabinet Secretary positions, 14-22. Previous administrations saw a burgeoning of the Ministerial posts, and the coalition government had 40+ ministries, way to many. Though the current government has chosen to go for the maximum 22 positions, the silver lining is that this is where it is capped.

Another difference between the Cabinet in this administration and those in previous administration Cabinet Secretaries are no longer unilateral Presidential appointments. Unlike in previous administrations where the president appointed ministers (now Cabinet Secretaries) from the existing Members of Parliament through a process that was quite opaque. In the new dispensation the President can only appoint to the cabinet persons that have been vetted and approved by the National Assembly.

Basically the president nominates 22 people, these 22 people go through vetting and approval by the National Assembly and if approved by the National Assembly and only then can they are appointed. The hope of course is that this the vetting and approval of Cabinet appointees by the National Assembly will lead to a more participatory, transparent and competitive appointment process as far as Cabinet Secretaries is concerned.

Yet another big difference between this and previous Cabinets, is that Cabinet secretaries will no longer be Members of Parliament. They will be persons from outside the sitting government. One wonders if this will make the Cabinet Secretaries in the new administration more accountable.

It should be noted, however, that according to the constitution Cabinet Secretaries are, “accountable individually, and collectively, to the President for the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions.”  Consequently a lot of whether the new Cabinet is an accountable or not lies will be a function of the President and his office.

There has been a lot of speculation about who will be in the new cabinet, the horse-trading and lobbying that has gone on behind the scenes, as well as the need to reward party patrons for their contribution to the ruling party’s election win. As the new Cabinet is established it will be interesting to see how many new faces there will be or will the new Cabinet be comprised mostly of the old guard.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Governors & MPs Already Demanding A Pay Increase?

Posted by on 4th April 2013

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In October last year the Salaries and Remuneration Commission engaged the services of PriceWaterHouseCoopers to carry out a series of job evaluations for positions created under the Constitution. The aim of this exercise was to evaluate these jobs and determine the comparable worth of the offices and produce a rationalized, harmonized, defensible and equitable grading remuneration structure for state officers.

In February this year the Salaries and Remuneration Commission proposed a remuneration breakdown for the top 3,600 State officers – including Governors, Senators and Members of Parliament. According to the Commission’s proposals Cabinet Secretaries, will earn a minimum of Sh792,000 and a maximum of Sh1.06m. Governors will earn Sh640,681, while MPs, senators, women representatives will earn with Sh532,500 monthly.

However it seems while the nation was collectively focused on Supreme Court Presidential Petition some of the newly elected State officials, Governors and MPs, were making a bid for a salary increase.

Governors Isaac Ruto and Prof Paul Chepkwony have demanded a review of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s recently gazetted salary proposals.

Governor Isaac Ruto has argued against Commission’s proposed salary structure stating that Governors should receive a higher salary than cabinet secretaries based on the fact that governors are higher ranked, and represent a greater portion of the population. He is quoted as stating “It’s unfair that senators and women representatives who had to traverse six constituencies during their campaigns and represent more people in Parliament have to earn the same amount as Members of the National Assembly who only represent one constituency.”

It is not just governors who want higher pay MPs are demanding a salary bump to, and according to the papers have a set in motion a plan to get their salaries increased. The Parliamentary Service Commission, the body that represents interests of MPs, is already in discussion with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to find out if this can be done.

Salaries of high-ranking elected state officials has always been an issue of contention between the electorate and elected. The elected think that their salaries should be higher while the electorate think salaries of the elected should be less.

Against wishes of the electorate, elected state officials and MPs in particular, have always had as their first order of business to increase their salaries. It is no wonder that our MPs were amongst the highest paid in the world or that our country’s wage bill is unsustainable or that state officers cost the country 14.73 billion shillings in basic pay.

The new proposals for remuneration of state officers by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission are supposed to correct this. With the increase of elected and nominated state officers – instead of just MPs, we now have MPs, Governors, Senators, Ward Representative – a whole other layer of government that taxpayers has been added, and it is crucial that salaries are carefully regulated, to ensure those taxed with paying state officers, i.e. the citizens are not overburdened.

Do We Really Need a 22 Ministries in the new Cabinet?

Posted by on 15th March 2013

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The constitution allows for a minimum of 14 ministries and maximum of 22 to form the part of the Cabinet.

It appears the new administration has decided to go with the maximum number of the ministries despite growing concerns of about the about the government wage bill. According to an Article in the Standard the current government wage bill takes up to 12%-13% of the countries GDP, state officers’ wage bill accounts for about 3% of the total public wage bill and 97% of the wage bill is accounted for by other segments of the public service.

Last week shortly after the election the Finance Minister Njeru Githae was quoted as having stated that, “as a country, we have an important task of ensuring that the public sector wage bill is not too large relative to the country’s entire income. If the wage bill becomes too large it will place a huge burden to the National Exchequer resources and weakens our national competitiveness—something that we have been trying to improve over the last decade or so,”

Yesterday the President Elect Uhuru Kenyatta declared the government’s wage bill unsustainable and hinted at possible cuts and salary freezes highlighting that as a country, “we need to focus on this issue of an unsustainable wage bill, we must address it and align the rates with the level of our economy.”  The Deputy President-elect William Ruto is also quoted as saying that Kenya lags behind in development because development funds are used to pay excess wages that do not generate income.

However it appears that in spite of the growing concern about the government wage bill. The government has decided to have the maximum number of the ministries. Yesterday the Head of the Public Service, Mr. Francis Kimemia, announced that the new cabinet would be made of 22 ministries. As the reason for the decision to have the maximum number of ministries he stated that, minimum 14 ministries was not possible because of the size of the economy,” and that “we need a government that will provide services to all, separate power, that will be innovative and at the same time remain lean.”

Ministries are not cheap and the more ministries the country has the more expensive it is for the tax-payer. Considering that the government already has several new layers centered on bringing services closer to the people are 22 ministries really necessary? Thoughts?