Calling for fiscal sustainability of the public wage bill – By Safi Godana

In the majestic, splendid halls of Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, a convergence of great minds and hearts from across borders marked the Third National Wage Bill Conference (NWBC) from 15 to 17 April 2024, to address the country’s public wage bill challenges. Led by Lyn Mengich, Chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), the gathering illuminated Kenya’s path towards fiscal prosperity.

Mengich highlighted the progress since the last conference in 2019, noting key achievements such as the operationalisation of the Framework for Recognising Productivity and Performance in the Public Service, launched in April 2023.

SRC also developed a framework for productivity measurement, piloted by 24 State corporations, including KenGen, Kenya Bureau of Standards, and the Ministry of Health. Over 8,000 public officers across 400 institutions have been trained on productivity.

She added that the Public Sector Remuneration and Benefits Policy, launched in 2021, and the ongoing implementation of the Framework for Streamlining Allowances have contributed to a positive trend in the wage bill-to-revenue ratio.

Mengich reported that the implementation of the NWBC 2019 resolutions, alongside other SRC initiatives, contributed to the positive trend in the wage bill to revenue ratio, which has come down from 51.4 per cent in 2018/2019 to 47.06 per cent in 2021/2022, with further projection to 46.64 per cent in 2022/2023.

Key SRC initiatives over the past three years have resulted in significant cost savings, she noted. For instance, SRC approved Ksh 12 billion out of Ksh 98 billion requested, thus, preserving Ksh 86 billion in the economy.

Additionally, the first two phases of streamlining allowances saved the nation a whopping Ksh 17.3 billion over four years.

Looking forward, Mengich emphasised the goal of achieving a 35 per cent wage bill-to-revenue ratio by 2028, as per a resolution from the National and County Governments Coordinating Summit held in December 2023.

To support this, a Steering Committee, including SRC, the Public Service Commission, the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee, and the Ministry of Public Service, was established to spearhead, convene, and ensure the success of the Third NWBC.

Mengich called for collective action through multisectoral cooperation to ensure fiscal sustainability and improved productivity, highlighting the need for public institutions to develop strategies to meet the set-out target of 35 per cent ratio.

“Let us ensure future generations inherit a self-sustaining country,” she concluded.

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