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Kuria clears the air on how hardship areas are drawn

 Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has told the Senate that currently the civil service in both the national and county governments have 16 designated hardship areas while the judiciary has 21 areas.

CS Kuria, who appeared before the Senate plenary Wednesday, said that prior to 1997, the civil and teaching services had similar designated hardship areas which included Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Samburu, Isiolo, Lamu, Marsabit, Tana River, West Pokot, Turkana and Northern area of Baringo with this comprising of 11 fairly distinct hardship areas.

"In 1997, the Minister of Education gazetted 25 hardship areas for teaching service following a recommendation by the Teachers Service Remuneration Committee. This followed a collective bargaining agreement with the Kenya National Union of Teachers, the recommendation was based on the agreement that teachers work in more remote areas as compared to civil servants who are mostly posted to district and divisional headquarters," said Kuria.

He informed the Senate that in 2005, the number of designated hardship areas for the teaching service was increased from 36 to the current 44.

The cabinet secretary said the government in cognizance of the existing disparities in designated hardship areas in the public service and in order to address the same across the public service and to promote fairness and parity had in 2019 constituted an Inter-Agency Technical Committee.

"I would like to inform the Senate that the designated hardship areas in the public service for purposes of payment of hardship allowance are remote areas categorized as lacking or having inadequate basic social services, amenities and infrastructure," said Kuria.

Kuria told the Senate that the Inter-Agency Committee comprised representatives from the ministries of: Public Service and Gender, Interior and Co-ordination of National Government, Education, The National Treasury and Planning.

He said that the Judiciary, Public Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission, Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Commission on Revenue Allocation, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and Council of Governors were also represented in the agency.

Kuria told the house that the terms of reference of the inter-agency committee were to carry out a study of the current policies and applicable circulars on designated hardship areas and payment of hardship allowance in the civil service.

"The Inter-agency was required to undertake a comparative analysis of other existing policies on designated hardship areas and payment of hardship allowance in the public service and other jurisdictions," said Kuria.

The CS said that the committee was required to study the issues in petitions presented to the National Assembly on the matter of designated hardship areas and payment of hardship allowance to public servants.

Kuria said the committee was mandated to study concerns raised by the Union of Kenya Civil Servants regarding designated hardship areas and payment of hardship allowance as provided in the collective bargaining agreement.

He told the house that the agency was supposed to address any other issues incidental to the matter on designated hardship areas and payment of hardship allowance, and prepare a report on the study with recommendations and a way forward on the categorization of designated hardship areas.

Kuria was responding to a question raised by Kirinyaga Senator James Murango who wanted to know the criteria used by the ministry to categorize and gazette areas as hardship zones in the country and why Mwea Constituency in Kirinyaga County has not been gazetted as a hardship area considering the adverse conditions in most parts of the constituency.

The CS told the house that the designation of hardship areas in the country was undertaken in consultation with the Office of the President- the then Directorate of Personnel Management and Provincial Administration and Internal Security.

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