The emergence of a glaring disparity in President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto’s, official pay and records of money actually paid to them in the financial year ended June 2016 calls for a thorough interrogation of remuneration of senior public officials.
Auditor-General Edward Ouko says in his report that the Presidency spent Sh148 million on the remuneration of the two officials against a payroll payment of Sh36.6 million.
This suggests that benefits to Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto for the period were three times their basic salary of Sh36.6 million, offering a peek into how public servants are remunerated.
The battle against the bloated public wage bill can be best fought by tackling the dozen of allowances that civil servants use to pad their basic salaries. The raft of over 60 allowances claimed, some brazenly labelled ‘top up’, inflate some salaries to more than twice their initial value.
These allowances have made the government the preferred employer for many chasers of money despite the very low official pay. The average public sector pay surpassed that of the private sector in 2010, making the government an attractive employer.
A situation where more than 50 per cent of the government’s revenue goes to paying salaries in a country mired in poverty and where the unemployment rate stands at about 40 per cent is not tenable. These funds should be used to spur development and provide basic services to the people.
We suggest that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) should lean towards a model prescribed by the State think-tank, Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis, which recommends capping of allowances such that they account for between 10 and 25 per cent of civil servants’ gross pay.
The SRC should not be afraid to follow this path. It did well in June when it made its most decisive step to cut the bloated public sector wage bill. It reduced the salaries of State officers, saving the country Sh8.8 billion annually.
The threats of a swollen wage bill to the economy are real and we must act now. We need to free more funds for development projects.