BWIRE: Politics, not wage bill to blame for public service woes

BWIRE: Politics, not wage bill to blame for public service woes

Once more, the current debate on the public service wage bill is high on the national agenda, and public servants and officers are being portrayed as the main challenge to the country’s national development agenda.

While the ballooning of public wage bill is a national problem, the bigger issue would seem to be wastage of public resources through policies that allow mismanagement. Among those policies are the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, the Mwongozo Code of Governance that guides the composition and remuneration of boards members and commissioners serving on public bodies, duplication of functions by the national and county governments because of vested interests, deep involvement of the private sector in running public entities and the hiring of too many advisors and consultants by many senior persons serving in the public sector.

Just wondering to what came out of the government commissioned exercise on ghost workers and or why our universities have not found this an area of interest so far.

It is wrong for the Kenyans to continue portraying civil servants and public officers as good for nothing, corrupt happy individuals only interested in getting quick monies. We have very professional, hard -working and efficient officers in the public service; it’s the politicisation of the hiring, promotion, posting and overall management of the public service that is the problem. Politics and business has ruined the management of public resources and public servants have become the sacrificial lamps in the game.

Proof public service not to blame 

Remember the Kenyan public service won the country the United Nations Public Service Award in 2007 in recognition of their exemplary performance globally-  the highest honour given by the UN  to reward the creative achievements and contributions of public service and public institutions to a more effective and public responsive administration worldwide.

The winning of the global honours by the Kenyan public service came as a result of the work done under the Public Service Reform and Development Secretariat (PSR&D) within the government, as a desire by the Kibaki administration to actualize the implementation of the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth Creation and Employment Creation strategy. The strategy was  developed by the government in early 2003 to guide their vision and road for steering the country.

The country’s public sector wage bill has been an area of concern in past years currently standing at Sh627 billion and is expected to reach Sh650 billion in the year 2017/2018.  By 2013, it was estimated at 12.7 percent of the GDP, taking a significant portion (almost 50 percent) of the country’s total revenue.  In 2013, Kippra noted that the GDP and wage bill ratio to revenue was at 7 percent and 30-40 percent respectively, which was higher than internationally accepted standard of wage bill.

As a serious matter of concern to the government, President Uhuru Kenyatta together with his deputy William Ruto met in Nanyuki on March 10 2014 and announced that they would each take a 20 percent pay cut in an effort to bring down the skyrocketing wage bill. The President further directed the cabinet to take a 10 percent wage cut.

This was followed by the National Wage Bill Dialogue in Nairobi hosted by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. It seems this and related other government interventions on the issue have failed to yield fruits. And the government seems, as indicated by the Deputy President to be realising where the problem lies – top political appointees and top government functionaries who want to enjoy the power trappings that come with the offices and not necessarily the average public servant.

Among the reasons that have traditionally been cited as sources of  ballooning public wage bill in Kenya have included waste and inefficiency, theft of funds through corruption and a high number of ghost/absentee ghost workers,  loosely administered performance contracts and evaluation measures inter alia high pay discrepancies among top civil servants and those at low cadres, inflated tender prices and poor record keeping.

We need to immediately de-politicise the public service including the board appointments and running of public bodies, minimise hiring of consultants and advisors, and allowing merit to determine hiring and promotions in the public service to align with our national development goals/campaign promises with existing policy documents and budgets, minimize waste in government through re-looking the procurement and disposal of public goods and services.

Additionally,we must urgently work on finalizing the devolution project to halt current duplication of service by national and county government.

The Writer Works at the Media Council of Kenya.

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