Let workers be, look elsewhere for savings
| Dec 15th 2013 | 3 min read
Kethi D Kilonzo
In paragraph 6 of a letter written to the International Monetary Fund on November 15, the Cabinet Secretary for Treasury, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya have this to say about the civil service.
“The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is already working to contain pressures on the wage bill while ensuring transparency and fairness for public service employees. Following the determination of wages and benefits for State Officers as mandated by our Constitution, the SRC plans to finalise its recommendations for the civil service as a whole by June 2014. The SRC work will help rationalise the salary scheme for all levels of government in line with the Public Finance Management law and limit the scope for ad hoc wage increases.” If, according to this letter, the SRC is yet to finalise its review of the civil service, what informs the current talk by the government of retrenching 100,000 civil servants?
In its December 2013 Country Report, IMF gives a very fair assessment of the current and future economic outlook of the country. No mention in the report is made of any plan or policy to sack civil servants to reduce the wage bill, or the need to finance future development projects from savings from reduction of the wage bill.
In the Annual budget, the Cabinet Secretary committed the Jubilee government to the creation of one million jobs per year. He stated that the creation of jobs was targeted to lifting at least 10 million Kenyans out of poverty. Did he mislead Parliament and the Nation? What has changed in so short a time?
The annual budget did not mention any policy or proposal for reduction of the number of civil servants or the wage bill to fund development projects. The Cabinet Secretary told Parliament that all development projects catered for in the Annual Budget were fully financed. Any “other” project that needs to be financed from the so-called savings from retrenching 100,000 civil servants is outside the Annual Budget.
According to the most recent employment data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 659,400 jobs were created in 2012. The rate of unemployment then stood at 40 per cent. Any retrenchment programme will be a claw back on the achievements of the previous government.
At a time when the central government has announced plans to sack civil servants to free up money for “other” development projects, the newspapers are awash daily with advertisements for job vacancies in county governments.
The campaign manifesto for Jubilee undertook to create a million jobs annually. Promises made during campaigns can be, and are mostly, broken. It is not possible to hold the government on its campaign and budget promises. However, the law allows civil servants to hold the government to account for any loss of jobs.
Tough questions must be asked and answered before any more misery is visited upon Kenyans. The estimated wage bill for the current financial year is Sh274 billion; what savings will be made by retrenching 100,000 civil servants? Which projects are these that are worth impoverishing 100,000 households? If the government can afford discretionary funds of up to Sh6 billion every year for the Uwezo Fund, it should at the very least let the civil servants it found in central government keep their jobs.
If Kenya has a burdensome wages and allowances bill, the problem lies not in the number of low cadre civil servants. The solution lies at the top where spending on discretionary events and other luxuries is at the highest.
In his address to Parliament on April 16, the President stated that none of us should rest or sleep peacefully until every Kenyan can find a job easily, feed himself and his family and easily exploit available opportunities to improve their own lives.
The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya
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