Kenyan taxpayers will spend more than half a billion shillings annually on salaries and benefits for the 50 Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) whose names were forwarded to Parliament for approval on Thursday, putting more strain on the Exchequer amid questions on their value for money.
The CASs, who were nominated by President William Ruto, will each earn a monthly salary of Sh765,188, bringing their cumulative monthly and annual remuneration to Sh38.26 million and Sh459.11 million respectively.
The amount, which excludes other benefits like car grants, mortgages and insurance will further balloon their wage bill amid high debt servicing obligations.
Each CAS will also be entitled to a one-off mortgage of Sh35 million and a Sh10 million car grant, Sh10 million inpatient insurance cover and a further Sh3 million for outpatient treatment.
Kenyans will also foot the cost of two top-of-the-range vehicles, a driver, an unspecified number of security personnel, a personal assistant and two secretaries for each CAS.
The hundreds of millions spent on the CASs will further stretch the public wage bill that was projected at Sh958.5 billion as of June 2022.
There is no cap on the number of CAS positions, and Dr Ruto has nominated three CASs for the offices of the Deputy President and Prime Cabinet Secretary as well as some ministries including the Interior, Trade and Education.
The appointment of the 50 senior ministry officials comes against the backdrop of austerity pronouncements by Dr Ruto’s administration.
The Kenya Kwanza administration cut the total budgetary spend for the current fiscal year by Sh14 billion in its first mini-budget, including dropping many infrastructure projects started by retired President Uhuru Kenyatta in a bid to ease pressure on loan repayments.
Debt servicing is gobbling up more than half of the country’s ordinary tax collections, locking the government in a vicious borrowing cycle to meet budgetary obligations.
There are also questions on the value for money that the additional officers bring to taxpayers, who are battling the high cost of living that has triggered demonstrations across the country.
Cabinet Secretaries have the constitutional mandate of assigning roles to the CASs but this has been contentious given that Principal Secretaries are the accounting officers of ministries.
The positions allow Dr Ruto to reward political loyalists who missed out on party nominations of the ruling coalition, election losers and those who have decamped from the Azimio la Umoja opposition coalition.
During former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime, the majority of the holders of office were 2017 election losers.
The appointments have come weeks after the Employment and Labour Relations Court threw out a petition by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) which argued that the setup was illegal and would lead to a bloated wage bill.
The LSK also said it was likely there would be duplicity of roles of the CAS and principal secretaries, “which would further bloat the public wage bill without corresponding improvement of services”.
The court noted though that the Public Service Commission followed the right legal procedure in establishing the office, including taking steps such as inviting public views.