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Economy

Civil Service retrenchment to start in 2015, says PSC chief

Public Service Commission chairperson Prof Margaret Kobia Graphic and Photo/FILE
Public Service Commission chairperson Prof Margaret Kobia Graphic and Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

The planned retrenchment of civil servants will not start until January 2015, the head of the agency that is charged with hiring and firing government workers has said.

Margaret Kobia, who chairs the Public Service Commission (PSC), on Monday told the Business Daily that the agency had started examining the Civil Service with the intention of finding out what positions and number of people the government needs to effectively perform its duty.

Prof Kobia said the PSC had dispatched its officials to the national and county governments to evaluate their staffing levels and determine how many employees they need in the medium term.

The evaluation process is expected to take three months and will be followed by the transfer of employees whose roles were devolved to the counties.

State employees, whose offices were scrapped following the merger of ministries, will also be redeployed leaving a clear picture of the required staffing levels.

Prof Kobia said it is the rationalisation programme that will reveal the exact number of employees the State needs and determine the pay schemes in the entire civil service.

“We want to ensure uniform pay for persons in the same job groups, irrespective of the level of government they serve in,” she said.

Prof Kobia also put non-performing civil servants on notice, saying they will face the sack in a year’s time if they are evaluated and found to be performing below the required productivity levels.

“Those evaluated and found not to be performing will be retrenched one year from now,” said Prof Kobia, adding that the public wage bill is “too high” by any standards.

Prof Kobia declined to indicate how many of the total 700,000 government workers would be retrenched in 2015, insisting that could only be known after the evaluation is done.

Her statement, the first official comment on the emotive subject, came three weeks after the Cabinet announced a freeze on Civil Service recruitment, salaries and allowances review in an attempt to rein in a wage bill that has risen to about Sh460 billion.

At the rate of Sh460 billion a year, the national wage bill is almost half of Kenya’s annual revenue collections expected to hit Sh1 trillion this year.

The freeze in salary reviews and the impending retrenchment have caused anxiety among government employees, setting the stage for a looming battle with the workers’ union.

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) has issued a notice of intention to call a strike in January if government does not revoke the pay freeze order by the end of this month.

Tom Odege, the union’s secretary-general, said ordinary civil servants are not to blame for the bloated wage bill and must not be victimised.

He said Prof Kobia’s announcement of intention to deploy civil servants to the counties was a sham since most county governments are already recruiting their own staff.

“County governments have been on a hiring spree over the past few months and we are left wondering what positions the devolved employees from the national government will occupy,” said Mr Odege.

The Jubilee government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has had to deal with a series of pay crises since coming to power in April. It all began with the MPs’ demand for higher pay upon being sworn into office and amid strong public opposition.

That was followed by a month-long teachers’ strike that paralysed learning in public schools in July and an ongoing battle with county representatives who are demanding higher pay.

University of Nairobi vice chancellor George Magoha last week added a new twist to the pay debate with a plea to the government to increase university staff salaries to “reflect the critical role they play in the country’s social and economic development.”

“It is ironical that the proposed remuneration for members of the County Assemblies will see them get paid better than the country’s scholars yet it takes a lot more investment to nurture an academician,” Prof Magoha, said during UoN’s graduation ceremony on Friday.

He was referring to a recent deal that Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) struck with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to raise their pay by 45.8 per cent to Sh8.43 billion from Sh5.78 billion.

Wilson Sossion, who was yesterday elected the secretary- general of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), warned the government that it had until Christmas Day to lift the freeze on teachers’ promotions.

But the government appeared bent on pushing through its retrenchment plan. Deputy President William Ruto reaffirmed government position at the weekend, saying the huge wage bill was unsustainable and retrenchments were inevitable.

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