Curse of per­sonal ne­go­ti­a­tions in pub­lic ser­vice

The Star (Kenya) - - Politics - MAU­RICE OD­HI­AMBO Former pres­i­dent, Civil So­ci­ety Congress

THAT Kenyans are over­rep­re­sented is not in doubt. But to un­der­stand this, you need to go back to Jan­uary 2010, when the Par­lia­men­tary Se­lect Com­mit­tee met in Naivasha to start the process of mid­wif­ing the new Con­sti­tu­tion.

You may also care to re­mem­ber that a fig­ure of 80 new seats was placed on the ta­ble. The fig­ure was ar­bi­trary: There was no cri­te­ria used and it has never been ex­plained how the fig­ure was ar­rived at.

And that is where the rain started beat­ing us.

The in­crease, later raised to 90, was too heavy and there was no jus­ti­fi­able rea­son for it. First, through the same Con­sti­tu­tion, we had brought in the county assem­blies, which pro­vided strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion through the MCAs. We had also in­tro­duced a sec­ond cham­ber in Par­lia­ment, the Sen­ate.

With this struc­ture, it was out of tune to in­crease the num­ber of seats in the Na­tional As­sem­bly. Ac­tu­ally, the trick was the re­duc­tion of the num­ber of seats, which those of us in civil so­ci­ety had sug­gested at 150 mem­bers in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

Yes, we are over­rep­re­sented but it is dif­fi­cult to con­clude this is­sue in the ab­sence of com­par­a­tive fig­ures with fi­nal­ity. This is be­cause the prob­lem of Kenya’s wage bill is not just that of over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion. That the wage bill has gone through the roof has its roots in his­tor­i­cal events that have shaped the coun­try in the last few years.

It started with the Dream Team, who were brought in to run the Civil Ser­vice and al­lowed to ne­go­ti­ate their own re­mu­ner­a­tion. The Dream Team reign was suc­ceeded by the emer­gence of the greedy gen­er­a­tion of MPs who en­trenched the idea of in­creas­ing their own salaries.

Then came the con­sti­tu­tional com­mis­sions, who were given the lee­way to ne­go­ti­ate their per­sonal emol­u­ments be­cause they were con­sid­ered a spe­cial cadre of civil ser­vant.

This would kick-start an era of hap­haz­ard in­creases of salaries at dif­fer­ent lev­els in the pub­lic ser­vice. The con­se­quence is that of a civil and pub­lic ser­vice where in­di­vid­u­als are al­lowed to ne­go­ti­ate their emol­u­ments as in­di­vid­u­als, where they are paid ob­scene salaries, which gob­ble up pub­lic re­sources.

It is these events that trig­gered a series of prob­lems that have led to dis­tor­tion of the struc­ture of salaries in both the pub­lic and civil ser­vice. Af­ter so many such at­tempts, the coun­try is now in such a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion that it can’t stop this be­hav­iour of per­sonal ne­go­ti­a­tions.

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