NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 17 – The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has defended its recommendation to slash salaries for public servants and State officers, stating it is among the measures that will reduce the ballooning public wage bill to the required 35 per cent of the country’s revenue.
While stating that the report was handed to President Uhuru Kenyatta due to huge public interest it generated, Chairperson Sarah Serem explained that State officers’ wages which take a total of Sh14 billion are among the highest in Africa, second only to South Africa.
Speaking during a press conference on Friday, she stressed the need for the huge burden which is currently above 50 per cent of the budget to be reduced and recommended a freeze in employment in the public sector.
“Yes we are independent yet we are part of the entity that feeds into the government and we have a requirement that whatever we undertake, we give our report at any given time to the President,” she stated.
“The wage bill is a serious concern to all of us and has a direct impact on the economy of this country. The President was making a national address that was addressing the issues of the economic strength of this country,” she said.
She further stressed that the review of the wages in the public sector has been ongoing since November last year and indicated that public participation is expected to be completed in the next one month.
“In some of the strategies that the government has taken in addressing this, you cannot isolate the matter of the wage bill because as you can see, 50 per cent of the revenue generated goes to wage bill,” she said. “So definitely there was going to be a statement that touches on wage bill. Where else would the President get it other than from SRC so it was very necessary that we share up to date information on what we have done.”
She stressed the need for everyone to respect the decision by SRC and accept its recommendations.
“If we are talking of reviewing the State officers’ benefits in a moment like now when the economy is not showing very good signs of sustainability, then obviously the review will have take into consideration the issue of affordability. How else would we have made that statement other than the statement we gave to the President,” she said.
She observed that at this moment, no public officer should be paid salary outside the dictates of the job evaluation exercise by the body.
“We did undertake job evaluation for all public entities and at this point in time, no public officer is paid salary outside the job evaluation dictates. When we were doing evaluation for the state officers, the commissions too were part of the State officers,” she stated.
She explained that reviews are normally based on the impact on the economy and sustainability.
“Going forward to review, it would still be based on the ability of the economy to sustain the same and so part of the review is focusing on that and the Commissioners are part of the exercise,” she stated.
She further revealed that the evaluation also covered all independent commissions.
“SRC is a constitutional commission and we have a mandate to set. When we move out to do a job evaluation, we are not looking at the individual. What we are focusing on is the responsibility and the economy. The affordability and that is what drives the entire process,” she said.
“As to whether the individuals that will be impacted by the advice is concerned, that is not part of our mandate. Ours is to deliver the job, as to how it will be taken is something different.”
The SRC Chairperson observed that the current wage bill is at Sh627 billion and emphasised the need for everyone to be patriotic and cooperate with the body once it completes the exercise.
President Kenyatta had challenged parliamentarians to support an interim report by the SRC seeking to review salaries of public and State officers.
READ: Uhuru urges Parliament to adopt SRC pay cut report
President Kenyatta who was speaking to a joint session of Parliament in his State of the Nation address Wednesday, said the wage bill had grown to unsustainable proportions posing a major threat to the nation’s development agenda, calling for sobriety in the wage bill debate.
He warned that the huge spending on salaries of those working in the public sector could plunge the country into an economic downfall if care is not taken.
According to President Kenyatta, 50 per cent of the country’s revenue go to less than two per cent of the nation’s population, straining infrastructural developments which remain vital to achieving a middle income economy status.