Is the Salaries and Remuneration Commission an underdog of the government?

Rationalization of Public Service in Kenya

The establishment of Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) in The Constitution of Kenya which was promulgated in 2010 was meant to bring sanity in the wider Kenyan Public Service, more so in the area of remuneration.

According to Wikipedia, Public Service refers to services rendered by a government to people living within its jurisdiction. In Kenya, and in many other democracies, government is made up of three arms namely: Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. Going by the definition of “public service” it goes without saying that all people working in these three arms of government are public servants.

In Kenya, all public employees ought to be subject to the work of SRC. It should never escape our minds that one of the main reasons why SRC was established was to tame the ever increasing appetite of our members of parliament who had made unilateral increase of their perks; their number one mandate.

Unfortunately, as George Orwell in his book ‘Animal Farm’ put it, “some animals are more equal than others”. Members of parliament and some other powerful officers coined a scheme to exempt themselves from SRC jurisdiction thereby rendering SRC an underdog. They cunningly used the term “state officers” to insinuate that they are not public servants and, therefore, can determine their perks as they wish.

This lie was sold to the unsuspecting and otherwise helpless public and they bought it. The public had no other choice but to believe it anyway.

Of late, the SRC has proved to be effective government machinery for silencing public workers. Any attempt by public workers to have their welfare addressed has seen concerted efforts from various state organs and SRC that ensure workers are intimidated. The ongoing turf between teachers and the Teachers Service Commission is a good example. SRC has faithfully assisted the government in ensuring that the government plays delay tactics in implementing teachers salary increments agreed upon in previous collective bargaining agreements.

The Kenyan public is privy to the insensitive and careless manner in which the government has treated teachers’ and police quest for reasonable remuneration and better working conditions. However, only a few know that civil servants are facing worse conditions.

The top cream in the civil service who take home a 7 digit salary makes everybody think that civil servants are well remunerated. This is far from the truth and the fact is that over 80% of civil servants are worse than teachers and police. Unfortunately, civil servants have no bargaining power given that their number is relatively small and scattered.

A small threat to sack them is enough to keep them in their offices despite their sad state. This explains the low morale among civil servants as well as the rampant “small money” corruption that is synonymous with civil service.

The claim by SRC that they are performing job evaluation in a bid to rationalize public service and improve service delivery is highly suspect. More so coming at a time when teachers and other public servants are pushing for better remuneration. More ridiculous is the assertion that the job evaluation exercise will take at least 2 years to complete. The completion is strategically calculated to coincide with the electioneering period when the ruling elites will use a token increment in public servants salaries as political bait.

Nevertheless, Kenya has an opportunity to bring sanity in its public service remuneration. As it stands today, it is ridiculous and one wonders if the government ever had a human resource department. How can one explain how a secretarial post with diploma as the minimum academic qualification in Kenya Revenue Authority attracts more salary than what a master’s degree holder in the civil service earns? Why does an engineer at National Water and Pipeline Conservation earn much more that what a similar engineer in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation earn? Why would a receptionist in the Judiciary earn more than a District head in the civil service?

The list is endless, and SRC needs to address these issues if it is indeed worth the name and the massive resources allocated to them. As SRC embarks on their exercise of job evaluation expected to last for two years, public workers and the public at large are entitled to know the formula SRC intends to use in determining the worth of any public post. Failure to disclose this will just prove the worst-that SRC is just a State machinery.