By Muthoni Thiankolu
My Dear Lovely President,
If you really mean business about this wage bill thing, there is a very good place to start. On 5th February 2014, a three-judge bench of the High Court of Kenya declared as unconstitutional, null and void the decision by MPs to revoke gazette notices issued by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission regarding the salaries of various state officers.
The Court also declared the National Assembly Remuneration Act unconstitutional. Implementing this decision alone would spare the public purse several millions (perhaps billions) of shillings.
The thing is, Your Excellency, there is a court order the implementation of which would actually see some 397 fat cats reimburse the national purse millions of shillings illicitly and unconstitutionally received as remuneration between March 2013 and now. As a lawyer of considerable repute, I can assure His Excellency that there is nothing ‘idiotic’ about this particular court order.
Accordingly, its implementation should be fast-tracked, with effect from March 2013.
Secondly, there is this obscenity of senior public officers earning several hundred times more than their lower and middle cadre counterparts, yet it is the later and the last that do most of the work. Tied to this is the scandal called ‘allowances.’
Actually, this is where the devil lies, not in the salaries. The attendance of workshops, conferences, trainings, meetings etc is incidental to the performance of a public officer’s job.
We need your wise leadership on the logic or justification for payingâ€”in addition to official salariesâ€” billions of shillings in the form of “sitting” allowances and per diems etc to MPs, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Constitutional Commissioners and many other public officers.
Thirdly, there is this thing about air travel. We’d love to fly economy class with our beloved MPs, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Constitutional Commissioners and other top honchos (that’s a good sounding word, ‘honchos’. We called such words ‘vocabulary’ in my school days).
Back to air travel, we’d actually relish sitting next to Your Excellency on economy class once in a while. You see, the cost savings would come in very handy for our struggling economy.
Fourthly, we have this small, nay, economically and morally indefensible matter of our poor citizens having to buy, fuel and service expensive cars for our MPs, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and Constitutional Commissioners and other top honchos (oh! That word again!).
The thing is, these people, nay, top honchos, are paid enough money to enable them privately buy and maintain their own cars. Ask the ordinary teacher, police officer, probation officer, lecturer, doctor, nurse, or city council askari the last time the government bought a car for them.
Fifthly, there are too many people who draw a salary from the public purse for doing nothing. They were only hired into the public service (invariably as tea girl, messenger, driver, typist, receptionist, secretary etc) because they were the relative, ‘clande,’ sycophant, ‘squeeze’ or other close connection of some highly placed Kenyan.
Put differently, there are far too many people in the public service who were hired into our public service for what the inimitable Prof. PLO Lumumba describes as “technical know-who,” instead of technical know-how.
Ask Gladys Boss Shollei why she was fired.
She will tell you part of the problem was that she resisted the attempts by some people who wanted her to hire their relatives and cronies into the public service.
Tied to this is a category of pubic, nay public servants commonly referred to as “ghost workers.” There is nothing “ghostly” about these workers. It is euphemism for paying salaries to non-existent workers, and by extension for services not rendered. You see, real ghosts don’t require anybody’s salary, allowance or that sort of thing.
Your Excellency, these are the musings of one who is not even a trained economist. If you mean business on this salaries reduction thing, I am sure you will get much more professional advice on the matter from the many gifted economists at the national treasury.
Meanwhile, your humble servant and patriotic citizen is willing to voluntarily take a 50% pay-cut if given corresponding allowances, benefits and perks to those enjoyed by MPs, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Constitutional Commissioners etc. You humble servant and loyal citizen will voluntarily take a 50% salary cut if he is given similar benefits to those enjoyed by MPs, Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Constitutional Commissioners etc.
In particular, your humble and patriotic servant will take a 50% pay cut if given something like a Kshs.80,000/= sitting allowance for every meeting attended; a 2000CC car fuelled and maintained at public expense, a Kshs.30,000/- daily per diem for any out-of-town meeting, conference or workshop, a driver paid from the public purse, a Kshs.120,000/= entertainment allowance; a domestic servant paid from the public purse (alternatively, a Kshs.80,000/- domestic servant allowance), a government house, a mortgage financed by the public purse…
In short, Your Excellency, I fully support your rallying call for salary cuts, on condition that we treat like cases alike.
Your Loving and Loyal subject,