Monday, December 11, 2017


Several events in recent days have served to remind us of government’s wastefulness and how through rationalisation of its operations we can stretch our tax shilling much further than we currently do or think possible.

The incidents in no particular order, started with the strike of the medical workers that was suspended a week or so ago. The doctors argued that they were working under terrible conditions and being paid less than they deserve, given the important role the play in the country against the millions being thrown at non-core staff in other government agencies.

The doctors laid down their stethoscopes for about three weeks saying they would not go back to work if their pay was not increased, in some cases by a factor of ten. The public gritted their teeth through the strike. We all think they should get a better deal.

Related to that, state health minster Sarah Opendi told parliament this week that the doctors will be catered for in an impending comprehensive review of public service workers terms of service in which one trillion shillings has been earmarked for pay enhancement.

She didn’t go into the details but if split equally among all 300,000-odd public servants this comes to about sh3.2m improvement in annual pay.

And then on Wednesday, the same day that the minister was at parliament, the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) released their report in which they had done a survey of government expenditures. A report commissioned by the president to look into the waste and duplicity of activities by government and its agencies.

"The ISO report highlighted several things key among which was the way public servants have enhanced their pay through allowances, consultancies to government and allowances of every nature...

Reading between the lines the report highlighted the need for a restructuring of government. The last such restructuring happened in 1992.

The restructuring is bound to find that public servants are all not lifting their weight, some should have long retired or many are misplaced and hence are inefficient and ineffective in their current position.

US billionaire investor Warren Buffet says if you find yourself in a sinking boat energy would be better spent changing boats than trying to bail out water from the doomed craft.

There really is no reason given the exponential growth in our revenues over the last three decades that public servants are not paid better so that we can bury for good the  idea that as long as government pretends to pay they too shall pretend to work.

We are not even talking about matching public sector salary scales.

Of course government will argue about that they are investing on major infrastructure projects, which no one doubts are critical to our development ambitions, but one can also argue that public servants cannot be held hostage to government’s planning inadequacies. Somebody should have foreseen that down the road there was going to be a fallout and worked towards mitigating it.

Of course we are always wiser in hindsight but that public service pay was a ticking time bomb has been common knowledge for years.

"I think what galls the most for the public servants is how they do the brunt of the heavy lifting only to see less deserving people – rent seekers, praise singers and the corrupt, skimming off the cream...

From the events above it is clear – if we needed reminding, that public servants need to be paid better, two, that a rationalisation of the public service would go some way to finding the extra money needed to cause improvement and three, that we have waited too long to get on with it.

There will be pain no doubt up and down the line but if done properly it will be for the greater good of society.

As if we needed to emphasise it more all the strategies, the Vision 2020, 2040, 3000 …. and operational manuals will count for nothing if the right people are not in place to implement them. This is important because the public service is a key driver of any plans or development we may be dreaming of.

If they don’t work or can’t work or won’t work our best laid plans will be pipe dreams at best and delusional gymnastics at worst.

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