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Economy

Taxpayers favour cut in civil servant perks over lay-offs to tame wage bill

Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Sarah Serem addresses the media during a breakfast meeting at KICC in Nairobi. Photo/Billy Mutai
Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Sarah Serem addresses the media during a breakfast meeting at KICC in Nairobi. Photo/Billy Mutai  

Taxpayers are pushing for a review of the many allowances paid to civil servants, MPs and members of county assemblies to keep the rising wage bill in check.

This is emerged during a survey by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) with few Kenyans pressing for job cuts, which has been the government’s favoured route to trim the wage bill.

Kenyans want the number of perks in public service reduced with entertainment and responsibility allowances abolished.

They also want committee meetings held by MPs and county assembly sessions restricted to curb the huge allowances paid to the taxpayers’ representatives.

Thousands of public servants could be out of jobs by end of March next year when the ongoing staff review exercise is expected to end, says the Public Service Commission.

The survey was conducted in the 47 counties between March and April 22.

The commission said that the views were made by 8,300 people who took part in its public dialogue on wage bill control.

State think tank Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis said that allowances paid to civil servants have made the government the preferred employer and called for a radical review.

Currently, allowances have the effect of doubling employee’s pay and in some instances growing it by a factor of 10.

The research institute also recommends capping of allowances such that they account for between 10 and 25 per cent of civil servants gross pay.

“All we are seeing are cases where private sector employees like nurses are seeking jobs in the public sector but not the other way round,” said SRC chairperson Sarah Serem, adding that jobs and wealth should be generated by the private sector.

The gap between the average pay in the public and private sector widened last year. Civil servants had an average monthly wage of Sh47,146 last year while that of workers in the private sector stood at Sh38,974.

The allowances paid to MPs and MCAs have frequently sparked public debate with many Kenyans viewing elected representatives as symbols of a greedy political culture, seeking public office as an opportunity for personal gain.

Out of the slightly more than Sh1 million earned monthly by MPs, basic salary account for half of the package with allowances taking the remaining half.

The MPs’ allowances are set to increase by more than Sh1 billion in the next financial year to Sh4.12 billion, highlighting their position among the best paid legislators in Africa.

The rising allowances are the product of a deal reached last year with the deputy President William Ruto that lifted the restrictions on committee meeting to a maximum of four per week as proposed by SRC.

The MPs can now have as many committee sessions as they deem necessary. 

The MCAs earn about Sh200,000 per month that includes a basic salary of Sh79,200. The allowances account for 60 per cent of their monthly package.

Besides allowances, Kenyans want the State to deal with the issue of ghost workers, corruption, cut on non-essential items as well as reduce the number of MPs and MCAs, according to the survey findings.

The wage bill stood at Sh521.6 billion or 13 per cent of gross domestic product, at the end of the last financial year in June 2013 having risen from Sh458 billion in the previous year.

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