A chance for the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to make good HistoryLately remuneration-based strikes have become common practices in Kenya. People tend to strikewhen they realise the glaring disparities between their remunerations and those of others with similaracademic and/or professional qualifications. The implications of industrial actions on nationaldevelopment and stability cannot be overemphasised. Further the strain put on CEOs to contain thesestrikes can be avoided because a solution exits. Its implementation however requires political willdriven by the love for positive change. Whether the current crop of leaders can rise to the challengeremains an open question. But I have my doubts because as long as people (particularly Kenyans inhigh offices) are beneficiaries of corruption of any kind, they tend to ignore it and assume that all iswell. Will the Salaries and Remuneration Commission seize this constitutional opportunity and rightthe wrongs that continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor or will it subtly maintain thestatus quo?As a way forward consider the following hypothetical scenario of two young Kenyans with jobguarantees as described below:Kamau and Onyango joined the University of Nairobi the same year, did the same course andgraduated the same year with the same degree classification. Two jobs in the public service (paid forby the same employer called GoK) are on offer; a secondary school teacher and a trainee manager inCentral Bank with basic salary disparity in the ration 1:5 respectively. If Kamau lands one, Onyangomust get the other and vice versa. Who between Kamau and Onyango should take the traineemanager job and earn a basic salary 5 times more than the secondary school teacher? What would bethe criteria of reaching this decision? Knowing the depth of corruption in this country, a veryunorthodox formula is likely to be used. The candidate with stronger political connections would likelyland the trainee manager job, while a common Kenya without a god father or mother must content withthe teaching job. But would this be justice when viewed from the spirit of the new constitution of fairremuneration for all workers?This scenario largely exemplifies the Kenya’s norm, where offices have been wrongly mystified as ajustification for their holders to earn obscene salaries their mediocre qualifications and wantingperformance not withstanding. This also explains why corruption is rampant in Kenya and the efforts tobridge the digital divide have remained a mirage. Lobbing and canvassing has made quacks hold highoffices in public service while professionals languish in underemployment and joblessness. Thisequally applies to government consultancies. Ultimately Kenya as a nation loses and poverty and itsnegative effects continue to ravage us 49 years since independence. As government respondsselectively to ad hoc proposals and strike threats to increase salaries, disparities continue to increaseleading to worker frustrations and hence more strikes. Continued failure of government to solve suchoffending disparities from their root cause seems to suggest government’s pleasure in it as a tool fordividing and ruling the masses.The one and single most important solution lies in embracing the principle of equity bearing in mindthat not all workers can fit in one place at the same time. The merit of equity also lies in the truism thatjust like all body parts are inter-dependent and function along synergistic partnership for the good ofthe body, so are all economic sectors for the good of the nation. To uphold such a systems approachin public service remuneration would inevitably require radical restructuring and harmonisation ofremuneration across the whole public sector. This is the opportunity the “Salaries andRemuneration Commission” has to restore Kenya into a civilised nation where things are predictableand rationalised based on acceptable formulae.There is need to rationalise basic salaries based on qualifications and ability to function as the initialcommon denominators. In this way holders of same or similar qualifications though working in differentsectors would in principle earn the same basic salaries, but allowances may vary to reflect the differentresponsibilities and status accorded to different offices. Onyango and Kamau in the above examplewould thus earn the same basic salaries but different allowances based on the unique responsibilitiesof the two offices. Similarly, all University chief executives would need to be full professors and earnlike fellow full professors except that they would take home the full allowances in respect of theiroffices for as long as they hold those offices.
In the same way, a university professor appointed as a Judge would earn a basic salary like any otherprofessor, but in addition commensurate allowances that accompany the office of a judge. In the samespirit, a judge with a Bachelors degree would earn like any civil/public servant with a bachelors degree,but in addition take home the allowances of a judge. The same approach would be applied to MastersDegree holders and any other qualifications. A Permanent Secretary with a Bachelors degree wouldearn a basic salary for that qualification, in addition to allowances of that office. Such a PS would onlybe compensated equally in terms of allowances to another PS who holds a Masters or PhD. Similararrangements would apply to all people paid from the same exchequer. This would also include thePresident. His or her basic pay would be based on his or her qualifications. The president wouldhowever in addition take home the allowances due the office of the president. Members of parliamentwould also be remunerated based on the same criteria. For instance MPs with different qualificationswould differ in basic salaries but take home the same allowances that are associated with the office ofMember of Parliament. A police officer with a PhD would earn a basic pay like any other PhD holder ingovernment (university, Research institute, Parastatal, Civil service etc.) but differ only in allowances.Such straightforward rationalisation, which attaches value to a combination of qualifications andperformance, would effectively de-politicise remuneration processes and prevent offending disparitiesthat often destroy morale and hence productivity and quality in service delivery from various categoriesof service providers. Additional benefits of such restructuring would include guaranteed exit once onereaches retirement age, releasing much money for service delivery and employment creation throughscaling-down of obscene salaries and allowance, improved performance due to maximised workermorale. Ultimately strikes would die natural deaths as no one would have any convincing reason forthe same.If this approach has worked in other countries and effectively reduced income inequalities, thuspromoting fair competition and equitable human development, Kenya cannot be the exception. Thesocietal value of higher education would also be reclaimed and quality assurance enhanced throughreduced cases of brain drain and brains in the drain. Giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar is theway to go. But should Creaser fail to deliver, we now have the performance contracts that would beused to make appropriate changes. At least Caesar would have had a fair chance to provehim/herself. To enhance equity, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission would need to reviewsalaries and allowances of all civil and public servants every 5 years and make appropriate adjustmentbearing in mind costs of living, inflation among other factors.Today, no one can claim to be the only one trained in a particular field so as to imagine that they areindispensable and can negotiate and fix their own salaries. Kenyans are schooled and are willing toserve their country within decent compensation packages. Stealing from the tax payers throughobscene pay packages as is common in Kenya is tantamount to corruption. The ball is now with theSalaries and Remuneration Commission. Kindly seize this golden opportunity and realign Kenya backto civility, nationalism and professional ethics.