Next government should treat public servants better

The next government will have zero option but to heed the call and revive trade unions. [File, Standard]

An efficient, well-motivated and effective civil service is necessary, and as a matter of fact, very important. On the contrary, a dilapidated public service is recipe for systemic corruption and economic decline. This is the position held by Transparency International, which the next government should emulate.

Empirical studies indicate that low government salaries and allowances in the past nine years have resulted in a serious decline of public sector efficiency and productivity – and created both incentives and opportunities for corruption and misuse of power and public resources.

Underpaid civil servants, including frontline workers such as teachers, health workers, security officers and many others are forced to develop alternative means to improve their lives – they have developed individual coping strategies to compensate for their declining purchasing power. These include moonlighting and consulting for private agencies.

Though, it is generally agreed that low wages serve as an excuses for workers to engage in corruption, increasing salaries without establishing effective control and monitoring systems as well as enforcement of appropriate sanctions is unlikely to reduce corruption. It is for this reason that the next government should establish effective control and monitoring systems and enforcement of suitable deterrent measures on corruption.

The new government will be expected to rise to its constitutional responsibility and ensure there is transparency in addressing the perverse effects of corrupt practices in the civil service.

There is need to reform the public service to serve the needs and aspirations of Kenyans and break away from the current administrative and governance structures which have failed to appreciate, value and recognise civil servants – majority of whom have worked under deplorable conditions.

It should be noted that good pay attracts and retains honest, skilled and staff. Thus, the next government will need to offer better pay incentives and career opportunities to attract and retain a responsible workforce.

Similarly, low wages in the public service are likely to attract less qualified, poorly motivated and potentially disloyal staff, resulting in an opaque, inefficient and potentially corrupt civil service.

In addition to offering enhanced remuneration, the new government will have increase funds to retrain public servants, boost public education, refurbish health facilities, increase medical supplies, avail latest technology to agricultural extension officers, equip veterinary officers adequately, equip teachers with skills and modern teaching tools, and more importantly modernise the Police Service.

Since the current government has treated civil servants with disdain and incapacitated trade unions, the next government will have zero option but to heed the call and revive trade unions in the civil service.

In sum, the next administration should emulate Singapore where government believes that paying workers well reduces temptation to take bribes.

The writer is a member of parliamentary committees on Education and Labour