Monday, April 29, 2013

Elected Office Holders: Tread with Care on your Demand for Salaries.

After the just concluded national elections, it took less than a week before some of the elected officers started to agitate for the increase of their salaries, citing personal reasons. The most profound reason they provided so far is the argument that their salaries set by Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) are not sufficient to allow them to perform their duties. An important reason especially to the MPs, seems to have emanated from the fact, they have access to  A few months earlier, members of 10th Parliament had in an attempt to award themselves a hefty send-off package, passed a bill late at night, but was forcefully rejected by Kenyans, and eventually was rejected on arrival at the president’s desk. As a Kenyan, I can categorically say that for a majority of the newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) as well County Representatives (CRs), personal interest are more important to them that representing their own electorate on matters of nation building and need to attain the goals of Vision 2030.
Before I offer my thoughts and little advice on some of the misconceptions by the petitioners (MPs, and CRs) on their intent to engage and/or force the commission on issues pertaining to their salaries, I would like to state the following facts; Fact 1: The wage bill can only be a specified percent of the national total domestic revenue. Recommendation for the Sub-Saharan Africa is 35%, but according to the minister of Finance, 80% of all revenues collected in Kenya goes to cater for the wage bill for government employees; Fact 2: Qualification to a specific state or public office is used as one of the determining factors in setting the salaries entitled to such an office; Fact 3: All elected persons to public offices in the just concluded elections, knew what the high and the low end of salaries would be before they decided to run for those offices; and Fact 4: Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) was established under the salaries and remuneration act, 2011, and its independence is guaranteed in the constitution of Kenya. The disbandment of such a commission requires a proposed amendment to the constitution, which can only be enacted in accordance with articles 256 or 257, and approved through a referendum.
According to fact 1, the existing/current working wage bill, according to SRC on public sector has almost doubled from Sh241 billion in 2008-09 to Sh458 billion in 2012-2013, accounting for 80% of the total domestic revenue. While it is recommended that the Sub-Saharan African countries spent 35% of their total domestic revenue on wages bill, The Kenyan wage bill is twice the recommended amount and therefore unsustainable. It is only common senses that when salaries are reviewed, and those that have been overpaid, take a pay cut, and those that have been underpaid get a raise. Qualification and merit needs to matter when salaries are set. The commission has indicated that the guiding light in setting these salaries are based on sustainability of our economy, coupled with the need to achieve the vision 2030. To harmonize salaries, where people are paid according to their qualification is a virtue that applies all over the world. However the amount paid should reflect the quality of work produced, the impact of such a job on the economy, and how such a job compares to other jobs productivity.
By virtue of Fact 2, salaries for MPs and CRs were further reduced due to an amendment by the10th Parliament on Thursday, December 6th, 2012 to exempt degree requirement for political candidates vying for MPs, and CRs. With now qualification other than being a registered voter, their salaries would suffer by virtue that the standards for such an office are low. First, they failed to realize that one of the factors that affect the salaries and remuneration of a state officer or a public officer is qualification to that specific job, usually rated on a job scale/category. Qualification is essential, especially to a job that allows the office holder to amend the laws and/ or draft new bills that can be passed into law. Both the Bicameral Parliament and County Government are tasked to do so, as legislative bodies under the new constitution. It is absolutely misleading to indicate that the salary is not enough to perform their duties, yet they have not even reported to their offices. It is also borderline insulting to instigate that a salary of Ksh. 532,500/month (MP), or Ksh. 118,181/month (CR) is not enough to sustain and cater for their needs when a majority of the Kenyan population live on nothing compared to what they will be earning. A reasonable person, especially those in elected offices, should be the last to demand anything for themselves, it should all be about the electorate. I am of the opinion that their concerns should be based on how they would deliver their promises.
All of the elected public servants knew about the review of salaries to the offices they were vying for. Some of them knew that they were due to take a pay cut, but they also were misinformed that they could champion and change those salaries once elected to those office. It is with sadness that I inform you that you were misguided. We understand that the urge for more salary now is informed by the fact some of you left your high paying jobs for MPs, Senate and CRs posts in search of power. To the common electorate, it was basically understood that it was all in good faith to serve your people as calling. For those that have not complained, we salute you, serve your people as you were called to service, and your people gave you a mandate. For the rest that want more salary, be cautious on how you demand it. It can easily backfire on you and lead to a recall of your seat, which unlike trying to disband the SRC, is quite an easy task if your electorate is dissatisfied with you. In fact, it should be clear that the threat to remove the SRC chair and/or disband SRC for no other reason than what is currently being used amounts to breach of the constitution upon which you swore to defend and protect.
In reference to fact 4, it is important for any of the salary-aggrieved elected officials to know that you cannot just disband the SRC by a mere pass of bill in parliament. Their existence is rooted in the constitution, and the only way to try to do so will among other things, involve a referendum. The Parliament however, through their oversight role, can only act as a check and balance body to make sure that the commission is working properly within the powers given to them, and according to the laws. The oversight role does not include the ability to disband. The only way to disband any commission is by way of a referendum, upon which it must be preceded by either a draft bill through the parliament, approved by both houses, or by a popular initiative signed by at least 1 million registered voters. The popular initiative would have to eventually be drafted as a bill, go through all the county government for approval, then to the bicameral parliament, which would have to approve it, sent to the president, who then asks the IEBC to conduct a national referendum for the approved bill. It is very unlikely that the Kenyan people will support such a bill in a referendum.