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Economy

Pay gaps among Kenya officers hurdle for salary review team

From left: Charles Nyachae, Constitution Implementation Committee  chair (Salary: Sh1,244,960), Micah Cheserem, Commission on Revenue Allocation Chair (Salary: Sh776,720) and Ms Sarah Serem, Salaries and Remuneration Commission (right) (Salarry: Sh330,000)
From left: Charles Nyachae, Constitution Implementation Committee chair (Salary: Sh1,244,960), Micah Cheserem, Commission on Revenue Allocation Chair (Salary: Sh776,720) and Ms Sarah Serem, Salaries and Remuneration Commission (right) (Salarry: Sh330,000) 

The salaries commission faces an uphill task of addressing massive pay discrepancies among those serving in constitutional commissions even as a consultant is expected to deliver a job-grade report in just over two months.

Consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers comes in at a time when the two best-paid officers, the Chief Justice and chairman of the Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), earn nearly Sh1 million more than the head of the commission supposed to determine their gross pay.
The document is expected to help craft a new pay structure for implementation ahead of the next government.

Charles Nyachae, the chairman of the CIC, earns Sh1.24 million per month, just below four times as much as Sarah Serem, whose Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s mandate is to fix and review compensation for all state officers including that of the President and MPs.

Ms Serem at Sh330,000 would be equally keen on attaining the level of vice chairperson of the CIC, Stanford Law School doctorate holder Elizabeth Muli, at Sh1.09 million, a detailed packages list for commissioners and judges shows.

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The list exposes glaring disparity on remuneration among the 11 independent commissions established by the Constitution.

Indeed, the fact that Ms Serem’s total pay is less than the combined entertainment, house and extraneous duty allowances of the CIC’s chairman exemplifies the task ahead of her commission. With the exception of her deputy whose entire salary and allowances stand at Sh200,000, she is by far the worst paid chairperson of a commission.

The chairman of the team charged with overseeing the implementation of the Constitution, Mr Nyachae, is only second to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga who earns Sh1.27 million a month, as the chair of the Judiciary Service Commission and President of the Supreme Court.

Members of the CIC and the deputy Chief Justice also earn higher salaries than any other commissioners according to a breakdown tabled in Parliament recently by Oburu Oginga, the Finance assistant minister.

Other highly paid commissioners are IEBC chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan (Sh874,720) and Mzalendo Kibunjia, the chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission whose term was recently renewed, at Sh808,720.

Bethwel Kiplagat, who chairs the controversy-ridden Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, is paid Sh800,000. However, the structure of his salary just like some others has no entertainment allowance component, raising an issue of how this is determined.
Micah Cheserem, chair of the Commission of the Revenue Allocation Commission is paid Sh766,720 but has Sh100,000 in entertainment allowance.

Chief Justice Mutunga, who could be the first occupant of the Sh40 million mansion to be built for the office holder, and Mr Nyachae have the highest entertainment threshold at Sh120,000.

The Teachers Service and Public Service commissioners earn the least in entertainment allowance with Sh40,000 each.

The stark contrasts in the salaries of senior public officers has in recent weeks come to the fore with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission embarking on a job evaluation on all public offices to determine the fair salary package for the office holders.

“Unless there is a single document of standards to follow when setting the salaries, it would be hard to say if the pay is fair or not. The various commissions could be setting rules according to their tasks,” said Grace Mulinge of consultancy firm Ernst & Young.

Ali Chege, the Remuneration Commission spokesman, yesterday confirmed PWC’s task includes coming up with a single handbook besides detailed rationalisation of new job grades but not salaries.

“They will also come up with a plan of action,” he said.

The commission said it is about to evaluate expressions of interest for the second contract to evaluate and grade all teachers, parastatals and civil servants pay and grades before these can be harmonised.

Daniel Ogutu, the vice chairman of the salaries commission said last week that top government officials will take a hit on their pay cheques beginning next year as the State agency moves to harmonise pay in the public sector to ensure fairness.

On Wednesday, PWC chief Kuria Muchiru declined to make any comment on the pay cut issue which has excited the public.
“We do not discuss client issues,” he said referring us to the commission.

The disparity in pay among members of the different independent commissions is a reflection of what is happening in the public service sector, says Mr Chege.

Transport permanent secretary Cyrus Njiru and his Treasury colleague have stoked similar controversy with their humongous “private sector” pay.
“It is this disparity in remuneration that the commission intends to eliminate with the ongoing job evaluation,” said Mr Chege.

Members of Parliament have based their recent demands for enhanced retirement package on salaries of the highest paid commissioners, whom they claim serve in less demanding roles. MP Adan Keynan last week sensationally claimed that Mr Nyachae “does nothing” despite his hefty pay.
CIC was quick to respond saying the MPs were attempting to subvert Article 230(4), which establishes the salaries team.

“Their diversionary argument on amounts of monies paid to the chairperson of the CIC is a deliberate effort to divert attention from their unconstitutional actions. CIC remuneration was arrived at as is provided in law enacted by Parliament,” says a message posted on the commissions website.

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