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Sh45b boom for teachers, civil servants as SRC engages top gear

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) Chairperson Lyn Mengich (centre) flanked by commissioners Wangui Muchiri (from left) Dr Leah Mumbua, John Monyoncho and Nelly Ashubwa during a media brief. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

As the debate on the 14 per cent proposed salary hike for the president, his deputy and top state officers rages, details have emerged on what the rest of the civil servants, including teachers, will get.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) unveiled the proposals that will see officers at the national and county government levels get a maximum increment of 9 per cent in this financial year and a subsequent 7 per cent in the next.

SRC Chairperson Lynne Mengich said the percentage increment was slightly higher than the 8 per cent earmarked for top State officers this year, and followed by 7 per cent increase in the next.

Mengich did not commit to heed Ruto's call to put on hold the increases for the president, his deputy and other top state officers, restating that the new salaries would take effect this month pending public participation that is already on course.

"The president has a role, as well, in terms of giving the commission his views and feedback. We have engaged the president as well as other stakeholders. He has asked the commission for specific information, which is not outside his right as the appointing authority. Other agencies also write to us seeking information and we respond to them," said Mengich, implying that State officers would receive a fatter pay this month.

"When we review salaries, we are doing so for the role and not the individual. Rejecting payment is a personal prerogative," she added. 

The SRC chair said the Sh45.2 billion figure - Sh22.6 billion this year and a similar one next year - was significantly lower than the Sh340 billion it would have cost if salaries were to be harmonised at once.

The teaching service will take the lion's share of the Sh22.6 billion amount for this year at Sh9.1 billion, which accounts for 40 per cent of the total figure, with the civil service consuming 30 per cent at Sh6.78 billion.

Other public officers are entitled to Sh6.91 billion, which translates to 27 per cent of this year's allocation, with State officers taking up Sh574 million or 3 per cent of the total share which the salaries boss said was arrived at following consultations with the Treasury.

"It will not be a blanket review because such would make harmonisation worse," she said, adding that other public officers earned more than the ideal rate, leading to a higher salary compression ratio, the gap between the highest and lowest paid officers, which she said was 42 per cent in the civil service, 22 per cent in State corporations and 10 per cent among State officers.

The SRC boss also sent a warning shot of looming pay cuts to State corporation heads earning more than the president.

The pay harmonisation could see more CEOs earning more than the president, but Mengich said her commission had recommended new pay structures that should be implemented with the exit of current heads.

"Many CEOs are on contracts and the expiry of those contracts gives an opportunity to guide on the structure of their roles," she said.

She also waded into the salary demands by Members of County Assemblies, denying claims that the SRC was reducing their pay.

The commission said the proposed public officers' pay increase was not a reaction to the tough economic times.

Amid public outcry over the proposed review for one section of society, Mengich defended the move as part of efforts to harmonise salaries in the public sector to attune them to international standards, and of a four-year review that was due. 

She said the increments were fiscally sustainable as it represented two per cent of the wage bill, and urged for a focus on productivity in the face of an always growing recurrent burden that has been red-flagged by Kenya's lenders.

Mengich said the salary review process had been ongoing for the last two years, and had been informed by market surveys on the ideal public sector pay.

She added that it would have been "unfair" if nothing was done for State officers whose salaries have not been reviewed in 10 years, and civil servants who have had to contend with a freeze in increments for the past two years in the face of Covid-induced economic downturn.

"Reviewing salaries is a constitutional requirement for SRC. When we halted the review, we told public officers that if the economic situation improved we would have that discussion," said Mengich.

The SRC boss spoke a day after President Ruto said he had asked the commission to halt a 14 per cent pay review split in two for top State officers pending a report on whether the country's pay structures were in line with international standards.