MPs seek audit on devolution as wage bill hits Sh630bn

Parliament has ordered the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to produce a report on the cost of implementing the Constitution as it emerged the national wage bill has hit Sh630 billion.

Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Sarah Serem when she appeared before the House Budget Committee in Nairobi on Thursday. Photo/Jeff Angote 

BY EDWIN MUTAI, emutai@ke.nationmedia.com

IN SUMMARY

  • SRC chairperson Sarah Serem told Budget Committee that paying 700,000 public workers had become a major concern.
  • Ms Serem said that the SRC had hired an independent consultant to audit all allowances payable to State and public officers in order to harmonise perks for all public servants.
  • The SRC boss said that despite the rising wage bill productivity had not improved.

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arliament has ordered the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to produce a report on the cost of implementing the Constitution as it emerged the national wage bill has hit Sh630 billion.

SRC chairperson Sarah Serem told the Budget Committee team looking into harmonisation of allowances payable to State, public officers and holders of independent offices that paying 700,000 public workers had become a major concern.

“The wage bill as at last budget was Sh458 billion or 43 per cent of the budget. Currently, the wage bill is Sh630 billion. It has gone up as result of devolution,” she said.

The current budget approved by the National Assembly is Sh1.4 trillion.

Ms Serem attributed the bloated wage bill to three sets of staff — those seconded to the 47 counties by the national government, former local authority employees and new workers employed by the devolved units.

“Local authority staff constitutes the largest chunk of the devolved government employees,” she said. “It is unfortunate we don’t know what they are doing. We will meet the Transition Authority and the Public Service Commission to see how this numbers can be harmonised.”

Ms Serem said that the SRC had hired an independent consultant to audit all allowances payable to State and public officers in order to harmonise perks for all public servants. The SRC boss said that despite the rising wage bill productivity had not improved.

Ms Serem accused public officers including Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of frustrating SRC by concealing information on salaries and perks.

“Despite writing numerous letters to JSC and other public bodies to furnish us with information regarding remuneration of their workers, they have refused to respond,” she said and asked the committee to amend the SRC Act to give the commission power to compel compliance.

The team directed the commission to come up with a standard pay structure for holders of constitutional and independent offices after chief registrar Gladys Shollei disclosed that 14 members of the JSC had drawn Sh232.8 million in sitting allowances over three years.

The committee was shocked to learn each JSC member earned Sh80,000 per sitting with Mrs Shollei saying the commission held more than 500 sittings sometimes for no good reason. She claimed the power struggles between her and JSC was about money.

“I have raised issues on the control of finances as the accounting officer with the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga but he has never responded to my letters,” she said. “That is why I wrote to Treasury secretary Henry Rotich in a letter that was also copied to Parliament to clarify the matter.”

Mrs Shollei said Mr Rotich had made it clear to the JSC that all issues of financial control lie with her.

“But the JSC has refused to heed this advice. In fact Mr Ahmednassir Abdulahi chairs a committee on finance that approves spending for JSC,” she said.

The Judiciary’s budget had been separated from that of JSC to avoid “acrimonious confrontations,” she said adding that her troubles with JSC stem from her refusal to double members’ per diem for both local and foreign trips.

Mrs Shollei said that she refused to increase the per diem payable to the members from $460 to $500 when they went for a convention in Cambodia.

“They have been demanding sitting allowances even for local functions the Judiciary invites them to, an example being the opening of a court in Nyeri,” she told MPs.

She accused the commission of overstepping its mandate and failing to follow provisions of the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act.

“If they read it, they would not be seeking control of funds,” said Mrs Shollei.

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