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What we don’t countenance are schemes to make money at all costs at the expense of the taxpayer.

It couldn’t have come as a shock that Civil Servants profit handsomely from a cluster of at least 140 allowances.

In a report for the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Deloitte, an accountancy firm, says 60 of these allowances get fully exploited month-in-month-out.

Now all that is set to go in new guidelines to be issued by the SRC. Overburdened taxpayers must breathe a sigh of relief.

The survey is meant to guide SRC as it carries out a widespread pay review with the aim of saving the taxpayer Sh8.5 billion that go into the wage bill as salaries and emoluments.

SRC’s contention is that over time, allowances have been used to pad the salaries of public servants. For the more than 750,000 workers, any extra shilling earned as an allowance loads onto the ballooning public wage bill which currently stands at Sh700 billion per year. The taxman collects Sh1.5 trillion. Nearly half of that goes into salaries. Put it another way; out of Sh10 collected, Sh5 is used to pay workers; out of the Sh5, Sh2 is earned as allowances.

Worst of all, paying such allowances creates disparities in the pay structure. If successful, the review should boost morale and passion for work. Because only those who have mastered the system get to enjoy the myriad allowances that range from travel, food, entertainment, disturbance allowances. The allowances’ frenzy is not just among the low cadre employees. It goes up to the highest levels of employees. Deloitte observes that allowances pushed up employees’ salaries in the public service by a factor of 10.

So ingrained is the allowances culture that in some offices, the main preoccupation seems to be pitching for the next trip and the next training opportunity. Surely this is unsustainable.

In most of the cases, the allowances make up to 70 per cent of the employees’ take-home salary. In other words; the taxpayer pays twice, even thrice a public servant for simply doing their job. For example, of what use is it to offer a worker Direct Service Allowance? Aren’t the Kenyan public servants a pampered and privileged lot?

The conventional rule is that pay must be for work done. There are no two ways about it.The litany of methods used to earn that easy shilling points to a system where the end justifies the means.

No wonder you cannot delink the urge to make money by whatever means from the deep-rooted culture of corruption in the public service. It is as if those employees unlucky to skim off money from lucrative tenders devised this as a way of making lots of money without breaking a sweat. Actually, looked at casually, the monies earned as allowances are justified. Behind it though, are means –hook or crook- contrived to earn money at all costs. These methods raise morality questions but border on the criminal.

Be that as it might be, SRC should make it clear that at the core of the review are efforts to make the public service a competitive employer and not really a ploy to punish honest, hardworking civil servants. Past attempts to rationalise allowances and other emoluments in the Civil Service have failed.

Lyn Mengich, the new chairperson of SRC must remain unrelenting even as she swims against the tide. Make no mistake, we are not opposed to civil servants justifiably earning their allowances. Not at all. After all, the ILO Convention 95 spells out to protect workers’ wages. Indeed, this newspaper will speak up against any move that violets the rights of workers.

What we don’t countenance are schemes to make money at all costs at the expense of the taxpayer.

Predictably, the workers’ unions are up in arms. To the extent that they are defending their members, they are justified. Obviously, wide consultation is needed for this to succeed. The government should look for a middle ground to pacify the unions to avoid unnecessary confrontation.

But even as the unions take the war to SRC and the Public Service Commission, they should appraise themselves with the nagging complains about poor service delivery, wastage, inefficiency and lethargy that dog their members. It could be purely conjectural, but perhaps the pain to the tax paper would be much less were the taxpayers assured of better service delivery.

Moreover, to neuter the huge appetite for fat allowances, the SRC and the PSC must start addressing issues of pay disparities, structure, promotions, ghost workers and corruption. If nothing else, these inherently contribute to the scheming for allowances.

Salaries and Remuneration Commission Civil Servants Civil servants allowances

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