The ballooning public wage bill, which worsens with each New Year, has been a matter of public debate for decades now. Despite spirited attempts to tame the spending on pay, political and economic imperatives often militate against achieving any tangible impact in this area.
In one of the supposedly major pushes to tackle this threat to macroeconomic stability, the makers of the Constitution in 2010 mooted what was seen as an iron-clad guarantee against arbitrary wage increases.
During the overhaul of the law following years of agitation, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) was created as an independent institution to regulate pay for public and State officers. It was anchored under Article 230 of the Constitution to advise on public wages and pension policies.
Unlike in the past, where there were no serious scientific studies to guide the determination, SRC has been carrying out studies to make sure that emoluments and other benefits are equitable and sustainable when seen against the Gross Domestic Product and economic growth.
However, its verdicts have met stiff resistance from self-seeking officials and groups, with unions and politicians being the worst offenders. The courts have as well waded in and reversed some of its decisions. However, one of the major sources of trouble has been politicians of all walks of life. From retired councillors to ex-MPs, they all want to disregard the constitutionality of the commission.
On Wednesday, we reported a determined push by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to vary the terms of engagement for past Members of Parliament (MPs) including pension benefits.
According to the report, PSC has asked the Treasury to pay 300 former MPs at least Sh7 million each through inclusion of Sh2.1 billion in a supplementary budget in the coming month. The same MPs including one-term legislators have already been paid Sh5.9 million but PSC says SRC miscalculated the final payout. This is despite the stipulations of the Parliamentary Pensions Act.
MPs have to choose what Act they wish to be guided by instead of varying the rules when it suits them. In the same vein, teachers, judges, doctors and other public servants have to respect the Constitution and other legal provisions on pay and perks. Let the august House and the courts stand for the Constitution and stop greed from sinking the economy.