EDITORIAL: County executives should focus on jobs, not money

That county officials are clamouring for a pay increase at a time when the country is facing a cash crunch shows their disconnect with the economic challenges. The high salaries are untethered to the economy, which has hit a turbulence.

It is only rational that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) rejected the Sh1.1 billion pay raise demand.

The county executive committee members agitating for a Sh200,000 pay increase, on grounds that their jobs are a risky responsibility that require proper remuneration are going against the needed austerity measures that will put a lid on spending and the ballooning wage bill.

The additional pay would further increase the public wage bill, which stands at 12 per cent of the GDP and nearly twice the globally accepted level of seven per cent.

The officials argue that they face threats and blackmail from Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) who think they earn more than them and that the S00,000 salary per month sets them up to engage in corruption.

Government officials can be paid high salaries, but this will not ward off corruption. These are flimsy reasons as the members knew of their pay before taking the job. And as the SRC says, the current salary was objectively and rationally determined.

If such a formula is used in remuneration, by giving high salaries in the hope of taming corruption, it will provide leaders who earn millions of shillings per month as other State officers go home with meagre income. This will further widen the wage gap.

The argument that some of the members left their plum private sector jobs for the county positions does not justify the bid for a salary raise. They made a choice.

Following the cash flow crisis that counties are facing after the Treasury delayed releasing the Sh264 billion allocated to them in the June budget, now is the time for the officials to put their heads together and come up with innovative ways not only to keep costs from increasing, to actually reduce them by cutting non-essential spending.

In an era where counties now play an oversized role in the economic growth of the country, let the officials concentrate on looking at ways to increase revenue for developing the devolved units.