LETTERS: Ballooning wage bill a product of poor policy

Bloated structures are not only costly to administer but also untenable. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The ballooning wage bill is a product of poor recruitment frameworks and not the employment schemes

Following the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) proposal for recruitment of civil servants on a three-year renewable contractual framework, this policy statement needs interrogation and evaluation for its practicability.

The question is; how will the wage bill reduce by putting civil servants on contracts? Again, is there any correlation between the ballooning wage bill and the permanent and pensionable scheme in the Civil Service? Seemingly, this strategy proposal was least thought out.

Let's put things into perspective. In 2013, the government froze new hiring of civil servants. The wage bill for 2013/14 financial year stood at Sh465 billion. Remarkably, even with that policy action, the wage bill has been on an upward rise over the years to the present Sh798 billion in the 2018/19 financial year.

The SRC recently proposed three-year renewable contracts for future recruitments into the Civil Service as an instrument in addressing the wage bill question.


Still, the SRC has been at the forefront in pushing for a review on the recruitment freeze imposed by the government in 2013, as the civil service is facing a looming crisis due to large numbers of retirees.

Todate, counties are battling a staffing shortage of technical staffs in key devolved domains critical to food security functions in the fields of water, agriculture, livestock production, and nutrition majority of whom were absorbed from the civil service. Again a pointer to weak succession plans under devolved units.

The 2010 constitutional order created too many political positions and layers of governance which political class ‘crowded out’ for personal glorification and enrichment rather than for service delivery.

These bloated structures are not only costly to administer but also untenable. Again the political elite amassed a lot of power to themselves which they abuse at will. Alongside bloated workforce, other factors linked to the ballooning wage bill include flouting of recruitment guidelines on; job grading, salary structures, compensations, and allowances as guided by the SRC.

Given that the two levels of governments are autonomous, there should be a way of weeding out duplicative roles and mandates between them.

Not to mention, the excitement that comes with the benchmarking tours and travel allowances. Similarly, traveling and sitting allowances immensely contributes to the runaway wage bill.

SRC should be objective in their propositions and targeting so as not to outwith their steam with normative agendas and brittle policies incapable of delivering results. Policy instruments focusing on the civil service amounts to negative energy.

Real culprits lay elsewhere. Establishing a harmonized, predictable and uniform; workers compensation scheme, reward system, and recruitment framework for all cadres of state and public officials will be a salient plan for tackling the wage bill question.

Also, budgeting processes that have itemized budget lines and set ceilings on each budget item make planning and expenditures clear and balanced and in essence reduces resource diversion, skewed appropriation, and transactions.

Suffice to say, the motivation in the public sector is the guarantee to job security, certainty, and predictability in allocated roles and compensation. Efficiency and productivity are as a result of the above.

Kiragu Kariuki, public policy and administration expert, Nyeri County.