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MISPLACED PRIORITIES: BLATANT WASTAGE AMID SOARING PUBLIC WAGE BILL

President Kenyatta... working out how to pay the bill

President Kenyatta… working out how to pay the bill

For a moment it passed as a considerate move to the Kenyan taxpayer when President Kenyatta announced a week ago his government’s plans to slash salaries of top government officials in a bid to scale down the country’s ballooning wage bill, an announcement that was followed by a National Public Wage Bill Debate Forum at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi County. However, the hope Kenyans had that indeed the government might just be keen on scaling up efforts to contain the huge wage bill that has alarmed even donors, are dwindling as it appears that the government has its priorities misplaced as far as public expenditure goes.

AN EXPENSIVE RETREAT

Is it not ironic for the President to announce that top government officials will face a 20 percent slash in their salaries in order to tame the country’s wage bill while away at a rather ‘pricey’ retreat? As revealed in an expose by The Standard Newspaper on Friday last week, the high-profile four-day government retreat at the prestigious Mt Kenya Safari Club cost the Kenyan tax payer approximately Sh100 million.

The government argued that the choice of venue was necessitated by security considerations but with all due respect is

Mount Kenya Safari Club - just the place for a cheap weekend retreat

Mount Kenya Safari Club – just the place for a cheap weekend retreat

the luxurious resort the only venue in the country where state security can be guaranteed? It was a blatant wastage of public funds.

The recent expensive government retreat is just one of the many scenarios that have played out since the Jubilee government assumed office. Public officials both in the central and county governments have indulged in unrelenting foreign trips in the name of ‘learning about modules of governance’ and what have you.

There are other, and many, examples of the wastage of hard earned tax shillings.

THE SH553 MILLION DEPUTY PRESIDENT’S RESIDENCE

The Deputy President’s official residence in the smart Nairobi suburb of Karen was opened by President Kibaki in November 2012 having been ‘completed’ at a cost Sh430 million but to date it has not been occupied by either former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, or the current Deputy President William Ruto.

The Deputy President's official residence - was Sh197 million, now Sh553 million

The Deputy President’s official residence – was Sh197 million, now Sh553 million

As of late January this year, it was reported that the DP’s palace was falling apart and therefore required another Sh100 million to make it habitable.

The original cost of constructing the house had been estimated at Sh197 million when construction began in 2006 but the additional millions required for the renovation, not forgetting it’s  for a house that has never been inhabited, will push the figure to about Sh553 million (read more).

SH500M HOUSE AND SH250 MILLION OFFICE FOR MWAI KIBAKI

Former President Mwai Kibaki is expected to move into his new offices in Nyari soon, one that has been purchase by the government at a cost of Sh250 million. Initially the Treasury had allocated Sh700 million for the offices in the 2012/2013 financial year but a public outcry over the ridiculous amount forced Parliament to scale down the figure to Sh250 million.

It also emerges that Kibaki has never utilized his palatial house in Mweiga that was completed last year, which was paid for by the taxpayer at a cost of Sh500 million.

DUPLICATION OF ROLES

The cost of devolution is proving to be too much for the Kenyan taxpayer to bear, especially thanks to the duplication of roles at the national and county government levels.

Last year, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had cautioned the government against this mistake warning that it could result in the country wasting resources in the effort to deepen devolution.

ODM OPPOSES

The main opposition party, ODM, has openly criticized the move to cut public servants pay in order to trim down the wage bill arguing that there are other viable options which the Jubilee government should explore in order to reduce the wage bill by a far bigger margin, like merging provincial administration with county governments, eradication of corruption and limiting luxurious expenditures among others (although the Forum notes that elected ODM representatives seem equally keen on expensive foreign ‘fact finding’ trips).

RESPECT SRC

Finally, a reduction of allowances government officials enjoy seems more prudent considering that the devil is in the details. Kenyans will remember how MPs battled the Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC) for higher pay just weeks after being sworn to office and even threatened to disband the commission. The SRC would later bow to the greedy MPs demand by awarding them some sturdy allowances which saw our elected representatives get more than even they had bargained for (read more). The MPs still earn the basic salary set by the SRC, Sh532, 000 a month, but reap close to Sh1 million thanks to the hefty allowances.

WE CAN’T PAY THE BILL

Politicians should adhere to the payments set by the Salaries and Remunerations Commission and desist any attempt to arm twist the commission for higher perks and in the meantime the government, indeed all our politicians and civil servants, must realize that the Kenyan taxpayer is being presented with a bill that they cannot afford and should not be asked to pay.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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