Lobby pushes for cut in public officers’ pay

A civil society group has called for lowering of the government wage bill, saying the country cannot sustain the high salaries of public officials with a weakened economy.

Jukwaa la Katiba said the issue of bringing down salaries of top civil servants and creating more equity in what public workers take home should inform the coming presidential debates in which those eyeing the top office are expected to articulate their agendas for the country.

The group’s leader, Mr Morris Odhiambo, said the 80 per cent of national revenue spent on recurrent expenditure was too high considering that the majority of Kenyans lived below the poverty line and scores more were out of employment.

“This kind of opulence has to end. The recurrent budget should be brought down to 40 per cent of national revenues and the rest should go to development,” he said.

Kenya is one of the countries where State officers, including MPs, take home a high salary despite it being a developing economy.

Other countries, whose economies are much stronger, pay their MPs and other State officers much less, although their economies could afford paying more.

Mr Odhiambo said the Salaries and Remuneration Commission should adjust the pay of all civil servants, including those who will come under county governments, to sustainable levels ahead of the March 4 General Election.

The group accused the commission of taking too long, in its job assessment, so as to come up with more acceptable salary levels, saying the country risked welcoming the next government with the current salary scales that would be difficult to change.

The NGO also wants the number of ministries to remain at 14. It said the minimum number, as provided for in the Constitution, is the most ideal, considering that huge resources needed to go into development to help fight poverty.

The next government has a leeway to increase the number of ministries to 22, which is the ceiling, but the minimum is 14. This is among the proposals in the new laws to reduce government bureaucracy.

Currently, there are over 40 ministries under the coalition government, a situation that has further burdened taxpayers, paying for the salaries of the bloated government.

All candidates eyeing the presidency in the March elections are scheduled to debate on national television next month, outlining their policies and attempting to outshine each other as they push towards winning public support.