Countdown for ECK staff

December 23, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 23 –The government has established an Inter-Ministerial Task Force to oversee the redeployment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) staff to the civil service.

The Ministry of Public Service, under which the task force falls, has developed an ‘option form’ and instructed the employees to present it to the ECK Secretary by December 24. It is however unclear which other ministries are involved in the exercise.

The form, obtained by Capital News, asks the staff to state clearly their personal information and their employment history with the ECK.

“The purpose of this form is to enable staff members to indicate whether they would wish to be re-deployed to the public service or not and to provide additional personal particulars to facilitate the transitional process,” a memo accompanying the Option Form states.

Parliament on Tuesday passed a Bill to dissolve the embattled body, effectively dismissing all staff.  Work has continued as usual in the organisation but the memo said the officers will cease being employees of the ECK with the Presidential assent to the bill.

The officers have expressed concerns about the fate of their existing terms of service given that their pay package and privileges are way above those of their colleagues in the civil service. The officers have been engaged in endless meetings to chart the way forward.

The lowest officer takes home a net salary of above Sh30,000 while his counterpart at the civil service earns less than Sh15,000. The ECK Secretary who is the Chief Executive Officer earns a salary equivalent to that of a Permanent Secretary.

A fresh row between the government and the staff could now be in the offing over the redeployment. Sources at the ECK headquarters indicated that majority of the officers had refused to sign the form since it failed to guarantee them similar terms of employment to their present ones.

“The form does not give a clear indication that we will be absorbed at the same terms as those at the ECK,” our source said.

The government has maintained that employees will only be absorbed within the terms available to the civil service.

“Staff who wishe to be considered for redeployment will be redeployed on the terms and conditions of employment applicable to the positions to which such staff may be deployed,” the memo stated.

It also indicated that the form was “not an offer or guarantee for re-deployment to the public service.”

An officer at the ECK told Capital News that the staff members entered into a meeting on Tuesday to chart the way forward.

“A clerical officer here earns around Sh60,000 but his equivalent in the civil service takes home about Sh15,000. And the law does not allow the salary of an officer to be reduced. So what happens?” an official who works at the human resource department recently asked.
The officers had wanted to be absorbed into state corporations whose remuneration equals theirs.

The dissolution of the electoral body is in line with the recommendations of the Kriegler Commission that probed the disputed 2007 elections. The commission indicted the ECK for bungling the polls, which Justice Johann Kriegler said were ‘irretrievably polluted.’

Members of Parliament moved to save the jobs of the officers and pushed for an amendment to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2008 that allowed for their absorption into the civil service. The original Bill had provided for their sacking but the officers put up a spirited fight saying they were being punished for the mistakes of their masters.


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