The rising cost of living coupled with increased taxation has seen thousands of public servants grapple with mental health crisis, Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairperson Anthony Muchiri has said.
Appearing before the National Dialogue Committee, in Nairobi, yesterday, Muchiri said civil servants take home less than a third of their salary.
“Out of 79, 453 public officers in the civil service, 17,132 representing 21.6 per cent earn less than one third of their basic salary,” said Muchiri.
Majority of the civil servant are servicing mortgages and this affects their disposable income and in essence their quality of life.
These stark figures do not exist in isolation but are compounded by taxes and levies, leaving many public servants with financial distress.
According to Muchiri, the ramifications of this crisis are far-reaching, resulting in a discernible drop in morale, a worrisome decline in job performance, and depression among some public servants.
The statistics he presented were striking—a surge in psycho-social support requests from public officers, which rose by 84 per cent from 6,616 in the financial year 2018/19 to a staggering 12,532 in 2022/23.
“Out of 31,892 officers in the prisons service, 13,661 (42.83 per cent) earn less than 1/3 of their basic salary. In the disciplined services, out of 106,667 officers, 51,784 (48.55 per cent) earn less than a third of their basic salary,” said Muchiri.
This data paints a grim picture of the situation that public officers are faced with even as additional taxes and levies are introduced to their salaries.
Muchiri called for a thorough review of the taxation regime or, alternatively, the contemplation of a wage increase to ease the financial burden on employees, particularly those servicing mortgages.
“The commission therefore proposes either the tax regime be reviewed, a considered wage increase be mooted or public officers who are servicing mortgages be exempted from additional taxes,” he said.
To further cushion the employees, the PSC chairperson suggested a staggered implementation of the housing levy basing it on basic salary and not the gross salary—an approach that mirrors the successful reformulation of NSSF contributions.
“This will cushion employees from the adverse effects of the all-round increase in taxation and ensure all employees are in within the one-third net salary requirement,” he said.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
He implored authorities to revisit the levies and VAT imposed on fuel to alleviate the high cost of living.
Muchiri assured of PSC's commitment to ensure the two-thirds gender rule in all appointments.
“The commission is actively developing an Affirmative Action Paper tailored to the public service's specific needs, thus underscoring its dedication to gender parity,” he said.
The PSC chairperson further recommended the creation and implementation of an affirmative action framework through legislation to ensure adherence to the two-thirds gender rule across the public service.
Moreover, he proposed the adoption of provisions mirroring Article 177(b) of the Constitution to address gender imbalance in the National Assembly and the Senate.
Former Attorney General Amos Wako proposed radical changes in the reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), saying two or three political parties with the largest influence be granted an opportunity to nominate one commissioner each.
Wako proposed that the remaining parties be allowed to jointly nominate a commissioner for appointment.
"The persons to be nominated by the political parties should meet the set criteria," he said.
The former AG noted that although the 2010 Constitution provides for how IEBC commissioners should be selected, major weaknesses have manifested themselves, leading many political players to brand commissioners as partisan.
"However we have noted that the selection Board rarely agrees even on methods of scoring points and even the scoring points are highly interfered with," he said.
Wako, who is former Busia Senator, also proposed the enactment of a law requiring the electoral commission to open its servers for public audit after every election to improve transparency.
He argued that the audit will help establish election shortcomings and rectify them to ensure Kenyans have confidence in the polls.
The former AG specifically called for a law to be enacted requiring foreign companies contracted to provide election technology to open election servers.
“It should be very clear to however comes to assist us that the servers should be opened. We can only do that if we have it anchored in law,” he said.
Wako recommended a reevaluation of the powers and responsibilities of the IEBC chairperson and commissioners.
He further urged the committee to revisit the Constitution's original intent, emphasizing that its drafters had originally intended the Senate to be the upper House of the Legislature.
“The place of the Senate should be strengthened in terms of legislation,” said Wako.
Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda echoed Wako's sentiments saying the Senate should be established as the upper House of the Legislature.
“Laws should be reframed so that Senate considers every Bill emanating from the National Assembly,” said Prof Ojienda.
He decried unfair compensation from the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) which he says funds the office of the senator the same as that of an MP despite them representing more units of administration.
“There must be a formula for compensation of senators who traverse diverse constituencies to be elected only to be equated to MPs elected with single constituencies,” he said.
Amidst growing calls for the creation of new counties from existing ones, the Council of Governors (CoG) has adopted a cautious stance.
CoG said they cannot take a definitive position while numerous unresolved boundary conflicts persist across several counties.
Haunted by impeachment ordeal in her first term as Kirinyaga Governor, Anne Waiguru who is also the CoG chairperson advocated for higher threshold in removal of county bosses.
Waiguru proposed changes to limit the window for impeachment.
“The council proposes changes to the process of impeachment of governors to prohibit any impeachments within 24 months after election and 12 months towards the next election,” she said.
She argued that this move will enable sufficient time for governors to set up their administration for purposes of service delivery.
The National Dialogue Committee is still receiving submissions from various stakeholder at the Bomas of Kenya.