Editorials

SRC’s automation plan vital to fight against payroll fraud

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SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has been relying on spot checks and face-to-face interviews which are weak, providing loopholes for civil servants to circumvent constitutional pay limits.
  • Using technology to capture names of all government institutions, the number of employees, and feeding their wages will not only promote equity in pay but also weed out ghost workers.
  • Expenditure on allowances has been growing and the SRC's centralised automated system will easily save billions of shillings in public funds lost through falsifications of documents.

The plan for an automated system to manage public servants’ pay and perks has come at an opportune time.

For years, manual systems have aided theft and waste of taxpayers’ money by civil servants.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has been relying on spot checks and face-to-face interviews which are weak, providing loopholes for civil servants to circumvent constitutional pay limits.

Using technology to capture names of all government institutions, the number of employees, and feeding their wages will not only promote equity in pay but also weed out ghost workers.

Expenditure on allowances has been growing and the SRC's centralised automated system will easily save billions of shillings in public funds lost through falsifications of documents.

Some officers have been known to claim generous reimbursements for non-existent workshops. This has ultimately inflated the wage bill that is now consuming more than half of tax collections against the background of reduced spending on development projects.

The wage bill stands at more than Sh800 billion, having risen from Sh458 billion in 2013. Part of the wages, about Sh1.8 billion annually, are paid to ghost workers, employees who are either retired or have deserted duty.

The government has in the past introduced a raft of austerity measures to reduce spending by the public service, including a card system a year ago that was to make it easy to account for the money a civil servant spent while on a trip.

But these measures have not yet substantially reduced the wage bill as civil servants still falsify documents to earn outsize allowances which are more than 247 in total, up from 31 in 1999.

Some government employees are on salaries and benefits that put their counterparts in the private sector to shame. The allowances double their pay and in some instances grow it by a factor of 10. These 'super salaries' are making many Kenyans scramble for public jobs, not because they want to serve but to strike it rich.

Capping the allowances at 40 percent of the gross pay, plus ensuring transparency through the use of technology will correct the salary distortions, reduce theft, and subsequently the wage bill.