Pay unease grows in police, prisons

Peter Mwaniki (name changed to protect his identity), a prisons constable working at a maximum security holding facility in one of the counties, has been earning a basic salary of Sh18,000 for over 15 years.

After serving for close to 10 years, he enrolled for a degree course in conflict management and humanitarian assistance at a local university in the hope that, by boosting his academic qualifications, he would get promoted to a higher position—hopefully that of an inspector.

“Promotions are expected after every three years but mine were not forthcoming. Over the years, I have seen positions fall vacant but get filled by relatives of my seniors or colleagues who bribed their way up the ladder,” Mwaniki says.

In a new directive, however, he now has to wait for another five years to get a chance to get an automatic promotion hopefully to the level of an inspector—a position that cadet recruits easily bag without the need for any experience.

The directive issued by Kenya Prisons Service Commissioner General Wycliffe Ogallo bars graduate wardens who have served less than 20 years from ascending to inspector positions.

An inspector is a commissioned officer whose basic salary is double that of a constable of prisons. In between a constable and an inspector is a corporal, a sergeant and a senior sergeant—positions that do not require one to be a graduate.


Last week, the service announced a new round of promotions seeking to upgrade 790 wardens to the positions of non-commissioned officers. It instructed all graduate wardens who have served less than 20 years to attend the interviews.

The interviews are ongoing at station levels for the positions of corporals, sergeants and senior sergeants who earn between Sh36,000 and Sh39,000.

“University degree holders who meet the set criteria to apply for any of the advertised vacancies. They may feel qualified for within the NCOs ranks but all officers are encouraged to take advantage of the announced promotions and fully participate in the ongoing interviews,” a follow up directive issued on Tuesday stated. Officers who have served for more than 20 years in all ranks were asked to submit their credentials directly to the headquarters for direct consideration on the non-commissioned positions.

“The 20 year rule for prison constables only applies to officers who are (aged between 51-60). Technical officers should also be considered alongside general duty officers,” Mr Ogallo directed all prison heads on Monday.

Mwaniki and many graduate warders who are still repaying the loans they borrowed to finance their education feel the directive is aimed at blocking their ascent to senior positions that match their qualifications.

While a good number attended the interview hoping to clinch the senior sergeant position whose pay is close to that of an inspector, a disquiet over the legitimacy of the procedure used to award promotions still lingers.

“For a long time, we have seen people promoting their relatives and others bribing their way to senior positions, so even as we attend the interviews, there’s that fear that it is an exercise in futility,” said another officer working in Nyanza region.

Job group J

A similar disquiet is also brewing among graduate regular police officers who, despite winning a case in court last year, are yet to get promoted.

The officers moved to court seeking to be paid the same salary as a police inspector in job group J. Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Byram Ongaya ordered the National Police Service Commission to effect the changes for all officers who prove that their academic credentials are genuine.

Justice Ongaya ruled that the denial of the graduate constables their deserved salaries was a violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Later,  Inspector General Hilary Mutyambai said the service would appeal the ruling on grounds that it was not tenable.

“If the 1,774 graduate non-commissioned officers excluding 335 prison officers are paid as inspectors of police in job group J as ordered by the court, it would have serious financial implication on the budget because the government will require Sh928 million annually to service the new wage bill,” the IG said in a statement.

Promotions at the NPS are now a constant pain that the leadership is seeking ways to manage following an increase in the number if officers pursuing higher academic qualifications.

Mr Mutyambai argues that a junior officer cannot claim the remuneration of an inspector just by virtue of a university degree without acquiring the requisite training and experience.

“The NPS, being a disciplined service, cannot function effectively with a distorted command where the inspectorate rank overshoots the establishment whose net effect is a command structure that is distorted at the middle,” said the IG at the time.

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