During last week’s Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, the Central Organisation for Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli made a long speech that contained several false claims and exaggerations.
In his rambling speech where he also called for a constitutional change and the removal of presidential term limits, Atwoli took issue with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) for what he termed as overstepping its mandate.
“Members of Parliament should work with us to disband the SRC,” he said. “The commission is fighting everybody; MPs, workers and State officers. SRC was made to advise, not regulate.”
The SRC is one of the ten independent commissions enshrined under Chapter 15 of the Constitution that meant to establish institutional checks and balances for the three arms of government.
Specifically, the SRC was created to check the growing wage bill which President Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted as bloated and in conflict with the country’s development goals.
According to the National Treasury, recurrent expenditure and debt repayments continue to take up the lion’s share of the country’s expenditure at both central and county levels, leaving little for development and investment.
This comes even as taxpayers continue to feel the squeeze from new taxes on fuel, Internet and banking services, introduced under the Finance Bill, 2018 as part of measures for bridging revenue shortfalls.
Nevertheless, MPs continue to push and vote for additional perks for themselves, saddling taxpayers and the workers that Atwoli claims to fight for, with more burden. Last year, MPs voted to pay the 196 Members of Parliament who lost their seats in last year’s general election Sh18.8 million each in lieu of pensions.
This pushed up taxpayers’ pension burden to MPs to more than seven-fold, from Sh262 million paid out in the 2017/2018 financial year to Sh1.7 billion in the 2018/19 financial year with the figure expected to hit Sh2.7 billion by 2020. It is thus essential to have an independent body that can provide a structured and objective review of the public sector wage bill and curtail efforts by selfish lawmakers to reward themselves hefty perks.
Data from the National Treasury indicates the country’s wage bill as a percentage of GDP has reduced from 10 per cent in 2013 to 8.6 per cent in 2017, a marked reduction that could not have been achieved without the oversight of independent bodies like the SRC.