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President Uhuru Kenyatta has initiated critical national debate to address spending in government. The President has led the Executive in taking a pay cut to reduce the country’s wage bill burden when executed all over government. Uhuru knows there is a problem. He has personally said so and even offered a way out. As Chief Executive Officer of the Republic of Kenya, he is rightly concerned since, to borrow a line from renowned playwright William Shakespeare’s Henry the IV, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. He is the one person voters handed the mandate to worry on their behalf and since he bears the crown of the Presidency, matters affecting governance must make him uneasy. His key campaign project on laptop computers for schools has entered turbulent seas of the so-called “Tender-nomics” at the hands of faceless cartels; Corruption is threatening to erode what number of gains he is trying to make in growing the economy; East Africa’s choice infrastructure project that is the standard gauge railway is being assailed from every corner, remuneration-linked strikes are becoming a millstone and turf and supremacy wars pitting governors, senators and MCAs are making the maiden devolution driveway a very rocky patch indeed.
That money from KRA and other receipts is insufficient for operations so that the rest is sourced from lenders is not a good business model. Creating more opportunities will mean a larger population of Kenyans will find work and accelerate economic growth and government can stop engaging a lot of people for services that can cheaply be outsourced. We have been told that the national government coffers have been bleeding through paying over Sh180 million annually to ghost workers. This must be tackled without fear or favour to avoid misappropriation of public funds.
We must not engage in a process that only cosmetically deals with the problem but must be ready to take tough decisions and steps that will eventually help us totally eradicate the problem. There is need for a national labour audit to ensure that the civil service is rationalized especially with the staffing needs arising from the Counties. This will also help tackle the issue of duplication of roles especially among the high-earners.
The freeze on government employment is an unfortunate measure but one that is necessary for us to be able to address the wage bill elephant in the room. This freeze is denying a lot of young people who are qualified the opportunity to serve the country but we need to clean up the system.
An audit will help us get a civil service structure that addresses our needs as a country seeking to be a middle-income economy in the next 15 years. An audit will help get rid of ghost workers while freeing up opportunities to those who deserve the jobs.
However, while on this task of rationalising the civil service, we must be careful not create another jobless lot through retrenchment. Rationalising must seek to help the civil service have equitable earnings among workers not leaving them with less than before.
With the cost of living rising each day, there is need for policies that help create opportunities and wealth. Pay-cuts will only burden the larger population of the public service leaving them with less to spend while prices of basic commodities continue to rise.
The large population of the public service that is not earning much must be protected through this process in order to ensure that they have comfortable living. Their interests must be catered for in the ongoing process and ensure that they earn enough for their work.
Public officials must be controlled on what they spend on local and foreign travel as it has been identified as one of the wastage areas. While some of these trips are necessary, there are those that can be conducted at lesser cost by cutting on the entourages that take them.
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