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Work goes on at the ECK

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 17 – Officers at the Electoral Commission of Kenya headquarters went about business as usual on Wednesday barely a day after Parliament passed a Bill to dissolve the body, effectively dismissing all staff.

Officers who spoke to Capital News on condition of anonymity said they would continue working until the President signs the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2008 into law and after getting formal communication from the government.

“We will stay here until we are told where to go,” one of the officers said.

An official of the committee that has been championing for their welfare confirmed that the staff would hold a meeting on Wednesday afternoon to draft a common memorandum to be presented to the government.

He said the meeting would come up to with concrete proposals on their redeployment to the civil service. This would be presented to Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno and the Head of the Civil Service Francis Muthaura.

The source said the officers were concerned about the fate of their existing terms of service given that their pay package and privileges were way above those of their colleagues in the civil service.

“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?” the official who works at the human resource department asked.

The lowest officer taking home a net salary of above Sh30,000 while the ECK Secretary who is the Chief Executive Officer earns a salary equivalent to that of a Permanent Secretary.

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“Only state corporations’ remuneration equals this. But do we have 600 vacancies in those companies?” one of the officers at the headquarters wondered.

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.’

Last week 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.

The workers are still taking issue with the clause providing for their redeployment saying it was ‘uncertain and ambiguous.’

The fate of their benefits also remains unclear as the government is yet to issue any guidelines. “If I retire today I am supposed to get Sh22,000 per month in pension but in the civil service this is not possible,” our source pointed out.

In a statement faxed to newsrooms on Monday the officers said they should be allowed to stay in office until their redeployment to the civil service was effected.

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