Awarding county workers pay increments of up to seven percent will no doubt go a long way in cushioning them from the rise in the cost of living, especially at this time when the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the economy.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) review will see 190,000 staff serving under the county public service boards and the county assembly service boards get raises of between Sh1,080 and Sh2,170, depending on their job groups effective July 1.
The pay review is the final one under a 2017 deal that was staggered for four years to ease the remuneration burden on the 47 county governments.
It, however, also turns the spotlight on the cost of employing the workforce in counties, and whether the Kenyan taxpayer is getting value for money on the huge expenditure incurred maintaining these jobs.
The counties’ wage bill rose by a fifth in the nine months to March to Sh126.28 billion, reflecting the financial burden of the hiring frenzy and salary increases in the devolved units.
The county governments continue to offer sub-par service, underlined by a lack of investment in public facilities such as hospitals exposed badly by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tendency by county governors and other leaders to turn the devolved units into employment bureaus must stop.
Official data shows the number of county employees rose to 190,000 by the end of 2019 from 94,700 in 2013 — the first year under devolution — reflecting a 100.6 percent growth.
Meanwhile, workers under the national government increased 10 percent to 197,600 over the five years to 2017.
Bringing in cronies into the payroll as a reward or incentive for political support has become an all too common occurrence in the counties, contributing to the rising wage bill with nothing to show for it.
It is also important to make sure that these workers are performing the duties they are hired to do.
Service delivery has suffered in the counties despite the huge workforce.
It is time the counties became more accountable to the taxpayer who finances the wage bill, by cutting unnecessary fat from the bloated payroll.