, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 – Looking back on the last six years at the helm of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Sarah Serem says it is not lost on her that she is probably the most unpopular person in the public sector.
Regardless, she says she was not in the running for a popularity contest and considers herself to have done the Kenyan people a great service in the role.
Serem, who was tasked with ensuring that any increments in public service pay were within reason and harmonized, has therefore described herself as a ‘darling’ of the wider Kenyan populace whose taxes bankroll the public-sector wage bill.
“I didn’t come in to make friends, I have lost friends in the public sector, (laughing) I am probably the most unpopular person within the public sector but for the people of Kenya I think I am a darling,” she said Tuesday in reflection.
Serem whose Commission’s recommendations on public sector pay the Court of Appeal found constitutionally binding, was on the receiving end of vitriol from teachers and doctors union officials, Members of the County Assemblies and even Members of Parliament who branded them busybodies for their dogged pursuit of the rationalisation of the public wage bill.
“You will all recall that the Members of Parliament in 2013 came into office with a sense of entitlement as of course they were used to setting their own salaries as they deemed fit. I can assure you that we are forever grateful to God for giving wisdom to the framers of the constitution who not only saw the need for a body called the SRC but also gave it protection because we were meant to have been disbanded month one of our operations.”
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That said, the barrage of attacks, Serem revealed, took their toll; a challenge she advised those who would take up the mantle, to come prepared for and to stand united in their resolve as the blows were easier to absorb as a unit.
“There were times when one would ask himself or herself if it was really worth going through what we face.”
The Executive however proved to be a useful ally as it stood behind what the SRC stood for, with President Uhuru Kenyatta – a year into office – leading his Cabinet in taking a voluntary pay cut.
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Earlier this year, he announced that all officials elected on August 8, would be coming into office under new terms of service on the strength of the SRC’s recommendations.
On Tuesday, the SRC launched a report on its last six years of service.