The Government is moving to harmonise salary structures in the Civil Service, and about time too. The distortion in salaries within Government is partly to blame for the high level of corruption. The gap between the highest and lowest job grades is so high it is sometimes ridiculous.
This is despite the fact that the Government had done plenty of work to institutionalise performance contracts as part of reforms to strengthen public expenditure management.
Performance contracts date back to 1989 with Kenya Railways and 1990 with the National Cereals and Produce Board. These ultimately failed due to what can only be described as a total lack of political will, as well entrenchment of nepotism and ethnicity in Government.
Performance contracting was reintroduced with the advent of the Narc Government in 2003. Since then there have been success with regard to ending the recruitment freeze that marked much of the 1990s and which spawned succession management problems that continue to dog the Civil Service today.
The new Constitution has institutionalised public and Parliamentary vetting for several high profile public appointments and with the Bill of Rights, laid the basis for strong citizen charters and better service delivery More changes are on the way now that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission is a reality.
The distortion in salaries in the Civil Service is historical, but became worse during the former Kanu regime when the Government, at its wits end to turn around the economy and bedevilled by corruption and systemic inefficiency in the Civil Service, hired the so-called “Dream Team”. This was a group of professionals handpicked by the Executive from the private sector for their skills in turning around organisations. The jury is still out on the true effect of their tenure, but suffice to say among their conditions they set the Government was that the State should equal what they were paid in the previous jobs and maybe more.
Needless to say their super salaries were completely out of sync with the Civil Service pay structure.
Since then, the Government has had to live with a grossly imbalanced remuneration system where those public servants at the level of permanent secretaries earn many times more than the pay of the people who serve them tea or deliver their mail.
Things have been made worse by the opaque recruitment system deployed by most State departments and parastatals that allows for nepotism and bribery, as studies by bodies such as the National Cohesion and Integration Commission have shown in the recent past.
What the Salaries and Remuneration Commission hopes to achieve is a reward-based system that ensures every public servant, regardless of their job grade, is entitled to salary increments in level with their performance and qualifications.