Medical interns must learn to live within means and eat books

Salaries and Remuneration Commission(SRC) Chairperson Lyn Mengich when she appeared before the Senate Devolution Committee at Parliament on July 6, 2023 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Lyn Mengich, the boss of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) was on national TV this week to elucidate on doctors’ remuneration. Her explanations make perfect sense, but before we get there, let’s unpack the package of acronyms: SRC sets pay parameters for public officers — outside of Parliament, of course, because our waheshimiwa scared the hell out of SRC by threating to do to it what they did to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

Well, I’m explaining acronyms by introducing new ones. For those who have forgotten, when PLO Lumumba was appointed to EACC helm, he spoke Kizungu mingi, that many politicians could not grasp with their Class 4 English.

The waheshimiwa feared PLO was setting a ruse to ensnare the corrupt in their midst, and they were many. To forestall any prospects of going to jail, the waheshimiwa disbanded the outfit in just one afternoon. All they needed was to have one of them move a motion and have another second it. Then they all shouted in unison: “ayeeeeeeeeeeeee” and the instruments forming EACC were struck from our books. Just like that.

Anyhow, the good waheshimiwa reminded Mengich that if they got too irritated with her posturing about their salaries, they could do the same to SRC. But I digress, perhaps because I am miffed at how a bunch of ill-educated politicians, many of whom subsist on the fringe of criminality, can hold so many millions of Kenyans to ransom.

Let’s return to Mengich. There she was this week, resplendent as always, every hair in place, explaining to the nation why medical interns should go slow in their demands for better pay. Hear her: “Interns in government today, the highest paid is Sh25,000. And even in the private sector we have checked, Sh35,000 could be about the highest.”

I concede that’s not the most eloquent articulation of the problem; Mengich seems to think in her first language, translate that into Kiswahili and ultimate render that into English. Something of value is lost in translation.

I think what Mengich meant to say was that all interns do is photocopy memos in the office and prepare tea for the bosses, and if medical interns treat Kenyans in public hospitals, they should do it gladly because they’re still interns. And not remind us that they have eaten more books than the rest.

But that’s not my problem; if the government says it doesn’t have the resources to pay Sh70,000 stipend to the medical interns, and Mengich says is over the top, then it must be. Even Prezzo Bill Ruto affirmed this position by waving his hand with fujo and declaring we must learn to live within our means.

The two are right. I like the idea of living within our means, especially if most of our resources have been stolen by tenderprenuers and tumbocrats and a thieving political class. Doctors should be content to eat books all their life and be content to know even if they don’t have as much money, they have the mental resources badly needed in a nation full of ignorance.

As to how they hope to monetise their brain power, they should try another career.  Mengich again: “We need to look at the current wage bill and ask what we need to do to get the correct ratio. It’s not about don’t pay the doctors more (sic), it’s about how do we get to what the law requires, 35 per cent of revenue…”

Another mishmash of inanities. What does she mean exactly? What’s this business of percentages? What’s the legal threshold for corruption and parliamentary dictatorship?

And does expenditure ceiling only apply to doctors, when county bosses are eating just about everything, when the law requires 35 per cent of county budgets be devoted to development?

Perhaps Mengich forgot to tell medical interns what’s vital for their well-being: they should eat all the books, while they still can. Those, too, will be stolen in the future.