Article 230 of the new constitution provided for the establishment of a Salary and Remuneration Commission (SRC). The idea was to have a way to check the ballooning public sector wage bill. Of particular interest to the public has been the wages being paid to the Members of Parliament. The Kenyan legislators are among the highest paid in the world and are infamous for regularly increasing their salaries and allowances.
The SRC was subsequently formed through an Act of Parliament, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Bill, 2011. After extensive research done in the US, UK, Canada, South Africa, Rwanda and Tanzania, the SRC proposed a pay structure that would see the pay of the President, MPs, Attorney General and other civil servants reduced, capped and taxed. This was done in an effort to reduce the wage bill to GDP ratio from its current 12% to the internationally recommended 7%.
The Finance Minister Njeru Githae pointed out in February that the Kenyan wage bill was the highest in the continent and that it had risen from 9% in 2011 to the current 12%. He warned of a large unsustainable fiscal deficit if the trend continued.
After the report was released, the public was allowed to weigh in their opinions, and many felt that the wage being paid to the MPs and the President was still too high and they would love it if the commission would further reduce it.
Despite all this, the 11th parliament MPs did not wait to be sworn in before agitating for an increase in their pay as the one proposed by the SRC was, according to them, unacceptable. They deemed the SRC actions to be unconstitutional because, according to them, the SRC has no mandate to reduce their salaries. So as the matter continues to play out, it is important you understand the function and powers of the SRC as envisaged by the new constitution.
Functions of the SRC
According to Article 230 of the Constitution, the SRC is mandated to
- Set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all State officers
- Advice the national and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers
The Salaries and Remuneration Bill of 2011 further defines the duty of the SRC.
It says that in addition to the powers and functions provided under Article 230 of the constitution, the Commission shall
- Inquire into and determine the salaries and remuneration to be paid out of public funds to State officers and other public officers
- Keep under review all matters relating to the salaries and remuneration of public officers
- Advice the national and county governments on the harmonization, equity and fairness of remuneration for the attraction and retention of requisite skills in the public sector
- Conduct comparative surveys on the labour markets and trends in remuneration to determine the monetary worth of the jobs of public offices
- Determine the cycle of salaries and remuneration review upon which parliament may allocate adequate funds for implementation
- Make recommendations on matters relating to the salary and remuneration of a particular state officer
- Make recommendation on the review of pensions payable to holders of public offices
- Perform such other functions as provided for by the constitution or any other written law
The Act further states that in addition to all these, the SRC is expected to be guided by the principle of equal remuneration to persons for work of equal value.
The SRC shall have all powers necessary for the execution of its functions given under the Constitution and the SRC Act 2011. These will include
- Gathering by any means appropriate, any information it considers relevant. This includes requisition of reports, records, documents and any information from any source including governmental authorities
- Interviewing any group, individual or members of an organization or institution and, at the SRC's discretion, conducting such interviews.
- Holding inquiries for the purpose of performing its functions under the SRC Act 2011
- Taking any measures it deems necessary to ensure that in the harmonization of salaries and remuneration, equity and fairness is achieved in the public sector.
It's important to note that the SRC is protected by the constitution. In Article 249(2), the commissioners are subject only to the constitution and the law. They are independent and are therefore not subject to direction or control by any person or authority. However, according to Article 252(2), a complaint to a commission or the holder of an independent office may be made by any person entitled to institute court proceedings under article 22(1) and (2). This is an enforcement of the Bill of Rights, which protects any person who feels that a right or a basic freedom (as stated by the bill of rights) has been violated, infringed or threatened.