The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has started reviewing State officers’ pay, setting the stage for higher perks for the President, Cabinet secretaries, judges and Members of Parliament from July next year.
The commission, which sets wage levels of public sector officials, will benchmark the new pay structure on what neighbouring countries, South Africa, India, Canada and the US pay holders of similar offices.
The commission expects an upward review of the pay to accommodate inflation and compensate for the 2017 salary cuts.
The new pay will take effect a year before the General Election in August 2022, exposing the process to intense lobbying for higher perks by MPs and members of the county assemblies (MCAs).
The SRC is mandated to review the State officers’ pay every four years.
The previous review took effect after August 2017 elections, triggering court suits after the commission cut the top officials’ salaries and allowances with the aim of saving Sh8.5 billion.
The court suits by MPs and MCAs froze the reductions.
“The commission will also carry out a salary survey to collect data which will inform the salary structures for the 2021/22-2024/25 remuneration review cycle,” SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich said in a circular.
The new pay will last till 2025 and will also affect the salaries of principal secretaries, the Attorney-General, the Chief of the Defence Forces, military service commanders, heads of the police as well as chairpersons and members of constitutional commissions.
In 2017, the SRC said the President’s salary would be cut to Sh1.44 million a month from Sh1.65 million, while the Deputy President was to earn Sh1.23 million from Sh1.4.
It unsuccessfully attempted to lower the MPs’ pay to Sh621,250 a month, from Sh710, 000 previously.
The MPs blocked the pay cuts through a court petition, drawing protests from citizens angry with extravagance in the government.
But other State officers like head of police, Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries saw their pay reduce by up to 12.5 percent or Sh132,000 monthly.
The country’s average minimum wage is about Sh9,014 a month.
The cuts were part of spending reforms in a country where public servants’ salaries consumed half of all revenues and were impeding spending on development projects.
“Given the cuts that happened in 2017, there will be a justification to increase or worse restore the salaries,” said a SRC commissioner who sought anonymity.
Lawmakers argue that they need high wages because constituents expect them to provide charitable support.
Some also have argued that lawmakers could be vulnerable to bribes in parliamentary votes if their salaries were set too low.
The pay review will come in the last year of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second and last term in office.
Previously, Mr Kenyatta has supported pay reductions for top officials to free funds for upgrade of roads and electricity network as well revamp public hospitals.
The annual bill for paying more 800,000 public employees, including elected leaders, is estimated at Sh830 billion, which is equal to half of the government’s revenue.
Tax collections by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for the year to June stood at Sh1.6 trillion, suggesting that public wages estimated by the SRC are more than half of taxes.
The International Monetary Fund puts the global benchmark at about 35 percent.
While the national government has gone slow on hiring, the counties have stepped up recruitment in recent years, squeezing allocation for development projects like roads, water and sewerage infrastructure.
Official data shows the number of county employees rose to 190,000 by end of 2019 from 94,700 in 2013 — the first year under devolution — reflecting a 100.6 percent growth.
Workers under the national government increased 10 percent to 197,600 over the five years to 2017.
The counties’ wage bill rose by a fifth in the nine months to March to Sh126.28 billion, reflecting the financial burden of hiring frenzies and rapid salary increases in the devolved units.
The Controller of Budget in her latest report says that the cumulative salaries paid by counties over the nine months to March jumped 4.76 percent from Sh120.54 billion during a similar period in the 2018/19 financial year.
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