Alex K Kamotho: Reward system for politicians and public servants flawed

AN EFFECTIVE HUMAN RESOURCES reward policy should have three key ingredients - to attract, retain and motivate suitably qualified and competent workforce to meet organisational objectives.

It doesn’t make economic sense to pay people more than they produce. This is unsustainable, and nowhere is this principle truer than in Kenya’s political and top public pay policy.

That Kenya’s President earns more than the American president and British prime minister beggars belief. The American president earns an annual salary of US$400,000 or about Sh2.3 million shillings a month.

As a matter of tradition, the American president donates the entire salary to charity – effectively deriving no private gain from public office.

The British prime minister earns £187,100 a year (about Sh2 million a month), taxable. Compare this to President Kibaki’s tax-exempt salary of US$615,000 (Sh3.2 million) a month and you begin to see how highly paid he is, relative to his responsibility and GDP.

He also earns more than the UN secretary-general who earns US$300,000 or just over Sh1.5 million a month.

THE AMERICAN VICE-PRESIDENT earns US$181,400 a year while Dr Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, earns US$ 157,000, the same paid to the US Attorney-General.

Our own VP, Foreign minister and AG can pay their American counterparts and be left with some change!

The American Finance minister earns US$183,500 or about Sh960,000, less than what is paid to our Finance minister. The American Chief Justice earns $202,900 a year, about Sh1 million per month compared to over US$365,000 (almost Sh2 million a month) for Kenya’s CJ.

Each US representative (MP) earns US$165,200, or about Sh850,000 a month, all taxable. The American constitution prohibits any salary increase for representatives from taking effect during the same Congress in which it was enacted, a crucial safeguard against greed.

Sample how much we pay our MPs relative to what they do and you see what an overpaid horde of idlers these people are. In 2004, they worked a total of 57 days, but pocketed about Sh10 million each, or about Sh175,000 for every day worked!

Recent assertions by Speaker Kenneth Marende that there was no plan to reduce these obscene salaries should clarify to all doubters that the claims by most Kenyan politicians of intolerance to corruption amount to nullity.

If one thinks about the salaries of top public servants such as permanent secretaries and parastatal heads, one spots the great tragedy with our country where our public service is simply enriching the top job-holder.

Mr Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in the US, earns US$191,300 – less than a million shillings a month. And this is the one economist whose every word is listened to by the top global economists, and whose decision may topple the economies of nations and global corporations.

Kenya’s Central Bank governor has a monthly take-home pay of Sh2 million, more than double the gross pay his American counterpart gets.

With all due respect, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u would be lucky to attract half his present pay outside Government. So would Mr Justice Aaron Ringera.

Kenya has a GDP of US$29.5 billion and a per capita of US$1,600, while America has a GDP of US$13.79 trillion and a per capita of US$46,000, and you will see the position in absolute terms.

Our politicians and public servants must exercise great restraint in what they earn. This, I believe, would help attract, not public serpents, but only those whose motivation is service to Kenyans.

Why must our politicians and top public servants remain blatantly insensitive, thinking only of what they can milk from their emaciated subjects, never what they can do to facilitate opportunity and prosperity for them?

WHEN SHALL WE DEVISE A REWARD system to attract the best, not for what they can get for themselves, but for what they can do for our country?

When public sector pay policy attracts the best brains for what they will get rather than what they can do, corruption and poverty are sustained.

Unless we substantially trim these salaries, talk of corruption and poverty alleviation will remain mere rhetoric.

It should trouble many that a significant amount of our public resources go towards paying the salaries of those who are supposed to guide our country to prosperity.

Being comfortable themselves means they will never understand what the masses go through.

Today we are talking about a Cabinet of 40 at a cost of half a billion shillings every year. Like in the satirical Animal Farm, we remain poor as a country because some animals are more equal than others.

Mr Kamotho is a lecturer in the United Kingdom.

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