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Please Mr President, check your numbers again

By Alphonce Shiundu | Updated Thu, September 24th 2015 at 11:20 GMT +3

State House said I wrote "inaccuracies" and "bigger lies". They say the President's figures are infallible. They say I do not understand economics. But let's not get into a debate about my aptitude or understanding of the economy.

The issue at hand is about the discrepancy of the figures that the State releases to the public.

First, I read mischief in the attribution of the President's wrong figures to me. In paragraph 12 of the Sunday night statement that the President read, he said this: "In this financial year, Sh174 billion was set aside to pay teachers, up from Sh139 billion last year." Those were not my figures. Those are the President's figures. It was on live television. I simply pointed out that if he had no problem adding Sh35 billion in a single year, surely Sh17 billion that the teachers want per year to effect the court-awarded pay rise should not be a problem.
Second, the President also said: "If the award were paid, we would have to find an additional Sh 118 billion to meet the salary and pension obligations of the award." (See paragraph 12, the third sentence).

I pointed out that it wasn't possible. His spokesperson agrees, but explains it is a spread over four years and that the assumption they made was that all the other public servants will get a raise because of something they say is "harmonization" of the salaries of other civil servants. Now, if we add Sh1 trillion revenues for each year for four years, we will be talking of at least Sh4 trillion in revenues. What is Sh118 billion in the face of Sh4 trillion? Why throw around that figure as if it was going to punch a huge hole in the revenues in one financial year, yet it is the cumulative figure for four years?

The President and his spokesperson forget that it is the Teachers Service Commission that offered the 50-60 per cent pay rise. The TSC is the teachers' employer and is constitutionally obligated to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with teachers.

What are the chances that the Public Service Commission or the Parliamentary Service Commission will offer a similar award to its employees? Have you ever seen an employer who, simply because a rival company in the same industry has given its workers a pay rise or a bonus, they move to implement the same? You just do a pay increase because so and so got?

Third, they claim they have correct figures and that their figures are updated, and that the figures I used were for 2013/14 and were provisional. I want to point out that if they care to check page 74 of the Economic Survey 2015, they will realise that the Sh418 billion was the projected amount for the full year 2014 (See Table 4.6).

They insist that the correct figure is the one found on page 289 of the same document, that of Sh501 billion, which they term as provisional. They also say the correct final figure is Sh568 billion. The difference between the provisional figure and the final figure is Sh67 billion. Is it a coincidence that the amount is exactly equal to the missing billions (Sh67 billion) that the Auditor General queried in his report?

Those numbers on the wage bill, Mr President don't tally. I invite State House to check the latest report of the Parliamentary Budget Office released yesterday and in there they will find out that the wage bill projections for 2015/16 – the current financial year—is Sh513 billion (see paragraph 26, on page 17 of the MPs' Budget Watch 2015/16). Surely, where did the President get Sh568 billion for the last financial year?

Fourth, the President's spokesperson says the total wage bill rose from Sh412.9 billion in the financial year 2012/13, to Sh504.2 billion in 2013/14 to Sh568 billion in 2014/15. Cumulatively, we are talking about a colossal Sh156 billion rise in wage bill in the first two years of the Jubilee administration! Again, let me say, these are not my figures. They are from State House.

The question State House should be answering is, if Agriculture and Health functions are devolved, and presumably we have a lean government of just 18 ministries – from the 42 ministries in the coalition government— how is it that ( and I am still using their figures) the wage bill in the last financial year, rose by Sh64 billion. The quick answer will be "it is the counties!"

Let's assume that is what they will say. What I don't get is why the wage bill in the national government is also not going down, when the services have been devolved?

They will say the counties are hiring new staff and ignoring those of the national government who were working in the counties. So, why is the national government paying people at the national level for work done by the county governments? Is that, honestly speaking, prudent use of public funds?

When I did mathematics at university twelve years ago, my lecturer Dr Wahome told me that numbers don't lie. People lie. So Mr President, reconcile your figures!