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Kenya: Civil Servants’ Average Pay Rises to Sh78,000 a Month

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Civil servants are now taking home Sh78,000 every month on average, making the public service employees some of the best paid in the region.

This is an increase from the Sh67,000 it cost the taxpayer to keep each of the 700,800 employees in 2015.

ALLOWANCES

Though the reality on the ground and on payslips is very different given the big disparities and distortions that have come to characterise the public sector wage bill, if you were to share the Sh795 billion wage bill equally, then each would take home about Sh930,000 every year.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) says the public service is a major employer, employing over 842,900 compared to the 1.9 million employees in the private sector.

SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich said in an interview that many Kenyans only see the basic pay for civil servants and conclude that they are not well paid. But if all the allowances are factored in, they end up earning at times more than 300 per cent of their basic pay.

“There are cases where more than 75 per cent of the pay is earned in allowances. We should stop looking at only the basic pay,” Ms Mengich said. Her commission has organised a National Wage Bill conference that kicks off on Tuesday next week.

The conference, which is expected to be opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta, seeks to lay bare to the country the status of the wage bill and what must be done to make it sustainable.

FACILITATIVE

The elephant in the room has been the numerous allowances that civil servants continue to earn for doing what they are employed to do as well as increases their remuneration. But no one wants to touch them for fear of reprisals.

A survey by the SRC revealed there are 149 allowances payable in the public service today, which cunning civil servants are exploiting at the expense of the taxpayer. Of these, 90 are remunerative while 59 are facilitative.

For instance, in one job group studied by the Sunday Nation, a cadre whose average basic pay was Sh32,367 ended up getting a mean gross salary of Sh158,487 after allowances.

That means employees earned Sh126,120 or 80 per cent of their total monthly pay in allowances.

A summary of all employees across job groups showed that on average, between 65 per cent and 85 per cent of their take-home comprised allowances.

PENSION

This means some of the best-paid civil servants take home nearly five times their basic pay in allowances. The most adept at claiming these allowances earned as much as 95 per cent of their total pay in these stipends.

The other ticking time bomb is the growing pension liability with regard to retiring civil servants at a time when the government has shied away from implementing the contributory pension schemes that take away part of the burden from the taxpayer.

Public pension expenditure has increased steadily from Sh27.9 billion in 2013 to Sh65.1 billion in 2017. The estimated expenditure for the current year is Sh104 billion. From this, the SRC says the contingent liability has grown from Sh499 billion to Sh990 billion. The agency, however, maintains there are no plans to reduce the headcount of civil servants given that sectors such as teaching and healthcare still need more employees.

However, the agency says, they will focus on increasing productivity going forward to ensure the government gets value for money and each employee lifts the right amount of weight to help expand the economy.

NEGATIVELY

It is not clear what the conference will achieve given that government officials and agencies appear to be addressing the nightmare through such events by just talking about it.

Last year, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) collected Sh1.58 trillion in taxes, which means that half of all the money raised by the taxman was consumed by salaries alone.

This means that for every Sh100 collected from Kenyans in taxes, Sh50 was spent on civil servants’ salaries. The other half is what was shared between running the national and county governments, leading to a situation where the development budget was solely funded by debt.

The SRC says a high public sector wage bill crowds out spending on development and negatively impacts on the government’s ability to render services.

THREE FOLD

It also leads to reduced resources allocated to development expenditure, which is generally considered as an important engine for economic growth. A bloated wage bill also has severe repercussions on the social services such as education and health, as the government gets constrained to render these social services. The SRC estimates that the health sector accounts for between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the country’s workforce. The sector’s wage bill has also increased nearly three-fold since 2013 from about Sh38 billion to Sh108 billion in 2018.