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We would like to pay but simply can’t afford it – Rotich

Rotich maintained the government's stand that there was no money to pay teachers at the moment/FILE

Rotich maintained the government’s stand that there was no money to pay teachers at the moment/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 1 – Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has told teachers to go back to school as the government attempts to resolve the standoff over their pay increment.

Rotich maintained the government’s stand that there was no money to pay teachers at the moment, further stating that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) had only harmonised allowances and salaries for all public servants but was yet to give direction on additional salaries.

“They should be teaching as we address a review process that is structured and all encompassing; what we want is to achieve harmony and fairness as per the Constitution until that time the economy is able to support higher wages, which we will be ready to review,” he said.

Rotich further stated that although the government was keen on ensuring all public servants were adequately remunerated, affordability was a key factor that had to be considered particularly if the increment was not budgeted for.

“It’s not that the government has refused to address this issue, it is not fiscally sustainable at this point in time to address a sector wide review without us identifying the source of money,” he added.

Rotich said they were awaiting advice from SRC which was in the process of reviewing the salaries of all public servants as reviewing the salaries of one sector and leaving out another would elicit uproar from the other sectors.

“All allowances and salaries are harmonised and people need to appreciate this. Any additional request for a pay hike ought to have a recommendation from SRC,” stated Rotich.

He went on to state that the government would be pursuing the pending appeal on the ruling which will be heard on the 22nd this month challenging the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, saying it was wrong for the court to issue a verdict without considering the implications.

“We are going to explain clearly in the courts exactly why this is difficult to implement,” he asserted.

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“We have argued for the last three years that any review must take into account affordability and sustainability, at this time it is not practical to make a decision that goes against the overall policy of government,”

Stating the facts, Rotich said resources had not been set aside for the 50-60 percent pay rise and the government was also dealing with the issue of taming the wage bill which he intimated consumes over 55 percent of the country’s revenue, while also increasing taxes was not an option as it would significantly increase the cost of living.

The law demands that a Cabinet Secretary write to Parliament within six months if it needs to spend money outside its budget, and last week the Budget and Appropriations Committee had indicated that it was waiting for communication from the National Treasury over the teachers’ woes.

The Treasury CS however insists that before he can write to Parliament he has to indicate where he would get the Sh17billion from, money he says he does not have.

Teachers unions have urged teachers from public schools not to report to school until the adjusted salaries were deposited in their accounts.

The hard-line stance between the two groups is bound to affect learning in most institutions in the crucial third term as candidate s prepare for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams.

Kenyans will be waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeal which sits in three weeks.

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