SRC’s Proposal to Scrap Salary Allowances Faces Rejection
A row has erupted between the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) over a proposal to scrap non-practice allowances in public service. PSC has since accused SRC of trying to usurp its mandates and roles and those of County Service Boards (CPSBs), County Assembly Service Boards (CASBs) and other commissions in the management and operations of aactivities in the public sector.
Non-practice allowance was intended to facilitate attraction and retention of key professionals in public service such as doctors and judges. While the government was worried at the time of introducing the perks that trained professional would go into private practice, making it hard for the low-paying public sector to attract top talent, SRC, in proposals published late last year, argues that the situation has since changed and there is, therefore, no need to continue paying the allowances.
SRC has been working hard to reduce excess allowances that comprise about 10 per cent of the government’s wage bill. In its argument, the commission claims it is no longer difficult to attract and retain critical professionals in the public service compared to the previous years and as such, the non-practice perks should be scrapped to get rid of unnecessary spending by the government. Commission’s proposal, which is in line with Article 230(4)(b) and (5) of the Constitution and Sections 11 and 12 of SRC Act, hopes to streamline its management and administration to improve transparency, accountability, equity and fairness.
But in a memorandum, Public Service Commission chief executive Simon Rotich claims SRC has zero mandate to dictate contractual terms between them and their employees. The memorandum dated March 3, addressed to SRC’s chief executive Anne Gitau, Rotich upholds that it is PSC’s mandate to review and make recommendations to the National government in respect of conditions of service, code of conduct and qualifications of officers in the public service.
“In the instant case and in respect of public officers, PSC, other commissions, CPSBs and CASBs have not proposed to review the allowances payable to the public officers and neither has there been a consensus that the same should be reviewed or abandoned. It is only at the point of a decision having been reached that advice may then be sought from SRC,” Rotich says.
Rotich, in the memorandum, insists that SRC’s constitutional mandates are to set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of State officers and advise the national and county governments on remuneration and benefits of all public officers.
“Article 230 (4) of the Constitution makes a distinction between the constitutional mandate of SRC with respect to state officers and with respect to public officers. Therefore, it is PSC’s considered position that the exercise of SRC’s mandates must be read together with PSC’s mandates,” the memorandum. Rotich argues that SRC cannot take up the role of advising the National government on remuneration and benefits of public officers before engaging PSC and before the commission reviews conditions of service, code of conduct and qualifications of officers in the public service for purposes of making recommendations to the national government.
He cites that PSC, being the employer of public officers, has the responsibility of setting the remuneration of their employees, a contract that SRC cannot interfere with as its only mandate is advisory. “SRC cannot be a third party to an employment contract and seek to review remuneration of public officers, that has been set and agreed upon by an employer and an employee in the public service, without the concurrence of the initial approval of PSC,”
Rotich added in the letter. PSC further argues that SRC cannot abolish an allowance that it has been paying to public officers which forms part of the terms of employment. “The allowance cannot be withdrawn at will without consulting the employee who must consent before a variation of the said terms of engagement,” the memorandum further reads.
Rotich told the SRC boss that at the time, PSC, CPSBs and CASBs have not proposed to review allowances payable to public officers and neither has there been a consensus that the same should be reviewed and or abolished.
SRC’s proposal has also been rejected by other professional bodies such as Kenya Medical Association (KAM) which describes the abolition of the perks as a direct insult to critical professions. KMA says the commission should keep off giving guidance to PSC as it could infringe negotiations for a fair wage among public officers. Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union has described the move as unethical and colonial in nature. KMPDU insists that SRC cannot review salaries of critical professionals in the public service backwards.