Recent media reports on salary increments for some senior State officers and the push by State organs both at the county and national government to enact bills intended to either enhance retirement package and/or provide send-off packages to State officers are a cause for concern.
Recently, Parliament approved a pension plan for former legislators who served between 1984 and 2002 that could cost the taxpayer at least Sh2.9 billion. The commission is also aware that Sh3.3 billion has been set aside towards severance payment for eight months for the legislators.
The pay being claimed is for the period between August 8, when the general election will be held, and March 2018, when the MPs claim their five-year term ought to end. More so, some counties have, in the recent past, passed bills giving benefits to some State officers.
These developments are clearly against Kenya’s Constitution 2010. Indeed, the issue of setting salaries and allowances for State officers is solely the mandate of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
In 2013, SRC set the State officers’ salaries and benefits and advised on how this will be implemented. A State officer who does not qualify for payment of pension may be considered for a service gratuity at the rate of 31 per cent of basic pay.
A State officer who is entitled to pension cannot be paid a service gratuity, as this will amount to double benefit from the same employer and hence will be in total violation of the employment laws.
Any attempt by public office holders to pay themselves more in the guise of send-off packages will go against the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution. We need therefore to tread carefully when it comes to matters of salary setting, salary increment or retirement/send-off packages.
Such schemes, aside from being against the law often set the tone for similar demands by other public officers leading to an additional cost to the Consolidated Fund, a situation that can lead to civil unrest and economic meltdown.
As a commission, we have adopted an open-door policy where both State and public officers and other players are at liberty to air their grievances about salaries to the commission, but on the basis that the mandate of the commission is respected.
Indeed, the framers of the Constitution did not envisage that on this important issue of setting or advising on salaries and benefits for public office holders there would emerge a situation where any other state organ arrogates itself powers to undertake pay or benefits reviews for its staff.
Does each institution want to set its own salaries and benefits? If each one of us was to determine our own pay, how much will we pay ourselves?
Moreover, the succinct statement of national values captured in Article 10 of the Constitution has placed such a high premium on integrity, transparency and accountability in public life and institutions; and sustainable development. The national values and principles of governance in the Article bind all State Organs, State Officers and Public Officers.
This plot by elected leaders to award themselves hefty send-off packages has created a lot of anxiety, fears and tension amongst the populace. All this is happening in the wake of drought and famine, insecurity, and heightened political situation among other challenges facing the country.
Besides, the Government is spending about 50 per cent of its total revenue on the public sector wage bill at the expense of development.
Despite all these challenges, we wish to assure all Kenyans that the commission will continue to play its role and do whatever it takes to promote constitutionalism while protecting the interests of Wanjiku without fear or favour.