Painful end to permanent jobs for civil servants

Stephen Kirogo, the chairman of the Public Service Commission and Commissioner John Monyoncho launch the Public Sector Wage Bill Study report done by the SRC. [Standard]

Nearly 30,000 jobs will soon be up for grabs in the Civil Service, but there is a catch: All new employees will be on contract terms.

The shift to three-year contracts in the 66,000-strong public service is intended to gradually replace the aging workforce as well as to address performance concerns.

Among those targeted to fill the manpower gaps are graduates with technical skills who will be recruited to positions that have long been ignored despite their importance to service delivery.

Recruitment of the new officers will begin next month with the filling of at least 3,200 entry-level positions, in what top decision makers say will inject fresh blood in an otherwise aging workforce – the consequence of years of no employment.

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The new changes come with implications for the new employees. First, they will not enjoy free pension and, secondly, they would not be considered attractive borrowers by banks.

In the 1990s, the World Bank had advised the State to freeze recruitment of civil servants and retrench thousands of employees to cap a swelling wage bill. This had grave implications on individual households and exacerbated unemployment.

Stiff opposition

Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Stephen Kirogo announced the tough measures, which are likely to face stiff opposition from trade unions, yesterday.

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Mr Kirogo said that despite popular perception, the Civil Service was not bloated but only hosted a workforce that was resting easy in the comfort of permanent and pensionable employment terms.

“We must be brutal if we want change…it will be our meagre contribution in managing the wage bill,” said Kirogo, whose pledge during recruitment was to drastically transform the PSC.

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Promotions and retention, the chairman said, would only be on merit and not automatic after every three years as is currently the case.

Among other immediate changes is that civil servants will start contributing a proportion of their salaries into their retirement scheme next month.

Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia is expected to gazette a notice, stating how much every employee should contribute as well as set the commencement dates.

Kirogo spoke during the unveiling of a study on the Public Sector Wage Bill that was done by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), which returned a harsh verdict on the current government employees.

“Our public service must be fit-for-purpose and responsive to citizens’ needs,” he told hundreds of senior managers, mostly in human resources, whom he bashed for the lethargy in the Government workforce.

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Besides the performance contracting, job grades have been collapsed from 23 to 17 following the job evaluation exercise which found officials in different cadres and salary scales yet they were doing the same job.

The SRC had studied the Civil Service, State corporations and counties in compiling its report, which found that more than one-third of public sector workers were too old and lacked the capacity to deliver.

Age problem

In counties, the age problem was more pronounced partly because the administrations inherited workers of the defunct local authorities, including ‘ghosts’ who are either long dead or exist to draw a salary for no work done.

Only 30 per cent of employees were in the youth age-bracket of between 18 and 34 years, while 36 per cent were aged above 46 years.

The findings of a lethargic civil service would resonate with the experience of citizens whose search for efficient government services is a daily nightmare.

SRC vice-chair Dalmas Otieno was the first to take a swipe at public sector workers.

The former Labour minister blamed the high unemployment in the country, which he estimated at 40 per cent, on the unresponsive government workforce that was doing little to support the private sector.

Accelerate growth

“I am embarrassed that you are not feeling responsible for the high unemployment. The public sector should be the accelerator of economic growth if the private sector is the engine,” Mr Otieno said.

Had the public sector been supportive of private enterprises, he added, the multiplier effect would be huge hence creating the badly needed employment opportunities.

Otieno said the SRC had made recommendations to the various government agencies on employee remuneration that must be adhered to, specifically on harmonising salaries and eliminating overlapping allowances.

He warned there was widespread fraud in human resource processes, including manual payroll management, that helped propagate irregular payments and which was difficult to trace and audit.

Last year, the public sector wage bill stood at Sh604 billion, which was more than half of the ordinary tax revenue collection by Kenya Revenue Authority. The figure had been flagged as unsustainable moving forward.

Otieno said while the wage bill was expected to keep rising, focus must now shift to growing the economy and, subsequently, the amount of taxes that can be realised.

Having civil servants contribute to their retirement kitty will also take pressure off the Government’s resources, as the pension bill has ballooned since 2013.

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Public Service CommissionSalaries and Remuneration CommissionMargaret Kobia