With the public wage bill set to reach Sh650 billion in the 2017-2018 financial year, reversing the trend became desirable. Thus, cutting public expenditure is inescapable for, even within county governments; more money is being spent on recurrent expenditure. This has had a crippling effect on financing development agendas.
As far back as 2015 when President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy took a pay cut to encourage other top civil servants to follow suit, it has never been in doubt that the runaway wage bill needed to be brought down. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), having commissioned a study, proposed measures to cut down on expenditure. Among those measures was putting a ceiling on the number of sittings that members of the Judicial Service Commission, Members of Parliament and Members of County Assemblies could make per month.
That did not go down well these institutions, and the matter went to court. And while the public expected the court to uphold the decision by SRC, the court did not. The High Court quashed SRC’s directive on sittings. That ruling contributes to making SRC’s work hard, especially after parliamentarians ganged up to ensure SRC did not determine their pay. What the High Court’s ruling has succeeded in doing is pave way for MPs and MCA’s, numbering 2,911 in total, to raid public coffers through their unregulated sittings; most of which would only serve the purpose of securing the legislators that extra shilling.
That our leaders would fight for this is motivated by the fact that sitting allowances, unlike regular pay, are not taxed. Consequently, with Sh50,000 per sitting, if JSC chose to sit three times weekly, each of the 12 JSC members would pocket a tax free Sh600,000, added to which are responsibility, commuter and airtime allowances. JSC members also draw salaries elsewhere.
Clearly, while safeguarding the rights of the appellants, the court did not consider the matter of public interest and national good. With so much having been eaten up through corruption and mismanagement; with high levels of unemployment and millions of citizens struggling with the high cost of living, pampering a few individuals can only be viewed as insensitive.
Because that ruling claws back all gains made in reducing the wage bill, the logical thing to do is for SRC to appeal the High Court ruling.