Uhuru Kenyatta Must Obey the Court and Pay Teachers their Salary Increments
In August 2015, the Supreme Court of Kenya upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeal to have primary and secondary school teachers awarded a 50-60 per cent salary increase, totaling Ksh17 billion. The Labor Court had similarly ruled in their favor in June. However, Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Government has refused to honor the Supreme Court’s judgment and has lodged an appeal against it. Kenyatta is categorical that his government will not honor the court order since there is no money for the pay rise. “That was a court error. I can’t pay, I won’t pay”, he told journalists.
The current dispute between the teachers and their employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) dates back to 1997 when the teachers went on strike for two weeks demanding a 150-200% salary increase. Since it was an election year, then-Dictator Daniel arap Moi’s government agreed to pay them to avert a political crisis. The increment was to be implemented in phases during a period of five years. But 18 years later, this has not been honored and every sitting government’s excuse has been they cannot manage to pay the agreed salary. As a consequence, the teachers in public schools are currently on strike, and the pupils have not been taught since they reported back to school after the August holidays. This is a crucial school term for pupils in Class Eight and Form Four, who expect to sit their final year examinations.
Uhuru is not new to the salary crisis which he faced as Finance Minister under former President Kibaki’s government. What angers many Kenyans is the fact that the Jubilee government has refused to obey the Supreme Court which awarded Uhuru the presidency in 2013, against a petition by former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga. Uhuru has mentioned that he will not let Kenya go the Greek-way by borrowing more money to pay teachers. He also claims that by giving in to their demand, the public wage bill will be unsustainable, and other civil servants would also demand a raise. Uhuru Kenyatta’s corrupt government has repeatedly misused taxpayers’ money on unnecessary expenses, yet cannot pay the teachers’ salary increase which has been a pending issue for many years.
Corruption and high wage bill
Critics and Jubilee sycophants alike feel the government can adjust its national budget to fit in the new pay by scaling down on recurrent expenditure. Uhuru, for instance, can lead the way by cutting down on his numerous foreign trips, which are mainly for marketing his image as a “come-back kid” after his trial was dropped by the International Criminal Court (ICC). On June 15, 2015 the Business Daily newspaper published an article titled: “Uhuru’s frequent flier diary strains State House budget” which detailed the cost of Uhuru’s foreign trips. “Mr. Kenyatta’s foreign trips have particularly come under scrutiny because the majority have been made to countries Kenya trades the least with, bringing into question what value the taxpayer is getting for the money spent. During his travels, Mr. Kenyatta is usually accompanied by large delegations, including the security detail and senior government officials who draw hefty sums in travelling allowances.
Senior members of a presidential delegation reportedly receive a daily out-of-pocket allowance of up to $400 (Sh40,000) while the government directly pays for their food and accommodation. The Controller of Budget’s (COB) half-year report for the period ending December 2014 indicated that the Presidency consumed Sh75 million in foreign travels — Sh15 million more than what was spent during a similar period the previous year. The Presidency consists of the offices of the President and the Deputy President. But the budget-bursting impact of Mr. Kenyatta’s frequent-flier lifestyle lies in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which in the corresponding period spent Sh604 million on foreign travel, a huge growth over the previous year’s Sh416 million.”
Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru (who is Uhuru’s favorite) has just revealed the names of 21 officers at her ministry and the National Youth Service (NYS) who made fraudulent payments amounting to Ksh791 million “to four suppliers for road construction and delivery of building materials between December 2014 and April 2015”, as reported in the Daily Nation newspaper on September 11, 2015. Further, “there was conspiracy to defraud the NYS Sh695 million in respect of committed disputed transactions.” Waiguru has now accepted there is extreme corruption in her ministry yet she had earlier denied that no money had been lost fraudulently.
Uhuru Kenyatta has not shown political-will to fight corruption and even the suspension of five Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) earlier this year, was stage-managed to show President Barack Obama that things were in order, just before he traveled to Kenya. The CSs are gradually being exculpated from the corruption charges and will soon be back to loot public coffers. The latest perception poll ranking by the research firm IPSOS Synovate on the most corrupt officials in the Jubilee government and opposition CORD, has “named suspended Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu as the most corrupt official with 50 per cent due to her alleged links to the Karen land saga. Deputy President William Ruto was named second (31 per cent) for his alleged connections to Langata Road Primary School land case, the ‘hustler’s jet’ and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital sagas.” If Uhuru’s deputy Ruto is seen as very corrupt, what then, do people think of Uhuru’s leadership?
Uhuru Kenyatta should pay the striking teachers because money is available to pay for the corrupt lavish lifestyles of his cronies and William Ruto’s ICC expenses. Teachers deserve the pay instead of Uhuru’s political thieving sycophants. Uhuru recently bloated his government by offering public jobs to the sons and daughters of Michuki, Nyachae and Kibaki who are from extremely wealthy families and do no merit such jobs. Uhuru’s children and those of his political class do not attend public schools, so he cannot empathize with the poor teachers among whom he got a lot of presidential votes in 2013. Teachers should not vote for him in 2017. “Uhuru awalipe Walimu!”