Perspectives on the Public Wage Bill Debate

Dr David Ndii (Photo courtesy of

Dr David Ndii (Photo courtesy of

In an opinion piece in the Saturday Nation of March 29, 2014, Who is fooling who in row over wage bill? respected Kenyan economist David Ndii questions the figures issued by the government with regard to the public wage bill debate. The President had indicated that we are now spending 13 per cent of our GDP on public pay against, we are told, an ideal of seven per cent. The President is reported as having projected the wage bill rising to 13 per cent of GDP or 55 per cent of total tax revenue. Quoting figures published by the government in the Budget Policy Statement 2014, the most recent and arguably the most authoritative data, he notes that the government wage bill is Kes 285 billion up from Kes 274 billion in the last financial year and it is projected to rise to Kes 296 billion next year. In relative terms therefore, the wage bill declined from 7.5 to 6.8 per cent of GDP, and is projected to decline further to 6.4 per cent of GDP in the next financial year. Ndii concludes by raising a number of governance questions the most portent of which is that if indeed the wage bill is 13 per cent of GDP, why would the Treasury to withhold this information from Parliament and the public by publishing a figure of seven per cent in the Budget Policy Statement?

Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning (Photo courtesy of

Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning (Photo courtesy of

In an unexpected move, Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning,responded to what she terms provocative and inaccurate comments by David Ndii’ which she states cannot go unchallenged in an article The untruths in David Ndii’s wage bill article. She challenged Ndii’s article as containing many unsubstantiated insinuations, factual inaccuracies and outright distortions which she feels ‘that Kenyans must be made aware of, so that we can proceed rationally with the national debate on this important subject.’  She further notes that her statement is ‘concerned with refuting such untruths rather than the anti-government propaganda warfare which the author seems so keen to wage.’ She proceeds to provide her own figures to support the position of the government and then dismisses Ndii’s article as having been taken from a policy paper he co-authored with Harris Mule and Prof Terry Ryan more than a decade ago. She assures Kenyans  that the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, and the Government as a whole mean every word they say, and that they are committed to enhancing the public service delivery experience of every Kenyan by guaranteeing efficient, effective and citizen centric public service delivery. Unfortunately, she fails to address herself to the issue of the Budget Policy Statement 2014 raised by Dr. Ndii.

It will be interesting to see how this debate unfolds.

In the meantime, in a widely published article, former KNC Presidential candidate, Peter Kenneth takes a more practical approach arguing that what is important is for government to improve its human resource management system in order to eliminate ghost workers and rationalisation of roles to avoid duplication.  He advocated for fiscal discipline cautioning that if the government is committed to reducing the ever rising recurrent expenditure, it must take a much broader approach and not just restrict itself to a reduction of the public wage bill. He included travel costs of government officials, the costs of transport for government (both the consumption and  maintenance of the vehicles) and the poorly designed, costly and badly managed public procurement system on the list of issues  that need to be addressed.

Is Kenya really a failed state? You be the judge

This article first appeared on The East African.

EVERY TIME the Fund for Peace publishes its Failed States Index (FSI), it is greeted by an uproar from Kenyans and other Africans alike. Many Kenyans and their leaders are emphatic: we are not a failed state.

In this year’s ranking, Kenya has been ranked at position 17 after Nigeria. Seven out of the top 10 countries are African and notably the first five countries – Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Chad – are all African. Our other neighbours – Ethiopia (19), Burundi (20), Uganda (22), and Rwanda (38) – all rank better than Kenya but all fair badly save for Tanzania (65).

From a quick review of past indices the ‘state of failure’ appears to be permanent; rankings don’t charge very much.

Debate on weak and failed states has gained currency because of the belief that they pose serious threats to international peace and security. What with Afghanistan producing Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man of the millennium, Continue reading

Gender, Security and Development

 Prof. Amina Mama

Prof. Amina Mama is an African feminist scholar at the University of California who demonstrates a keen understanding of the nexus between security and development.

Recently, she delivered a public lecture at the University of Nairobi on ‘Global Militarism and the Resilience of Women in Africa’. The lecture was organized by the Africa Leadership Centre in partnership with the Institute of Development Studies and the Social Sciences Research Council.

During the lecture, Prof. Mama made very profound observations about the state of peace and security in Africa on which I shall ponder for a while. I am convinced that the plethora of civil society groups that deal with the issues of peace and security in Africa and their donors would benefit greatly from a thorough review and consideration of the issues she raised.

She took note of the rising global militarism and the pervasiveness of violence in Africa. She observed that the state has lost the monopoly over the use of instruments of violence and hence Continue reading

My Vote will not be wasted

In the recent weeks, the popularity of Presidential Aspirant Peter Kenneth has been on the rise. Kenneth has attracted a lot of attention by demonstrating that Kenyans can actually discuss issues and as the Nation Media Group put it recently, the next election must not be business as usual; it must be about issues’.

However, there’s a growing trend and argument around the ‘wasted vote’ concept. Some people are arguing that they agree with what Peter Kenneth stands for, they agree that he is the leaders that Kenya needs and deserves but they will not vote for him because they don’t believe he can win. In other words, they don’t want to waste their votes. Continue reading

Building the Nation

By Henry Barlow


Today I did my share

In building the nation.

I drove a Permanent Secretary

To an important, urgent function

In fact, to a luncheon at the Vic.


The menu reflected its importance

Cold bell beer with small talk,

Then fried chicken with niceties

Wine to fill the hollowness of the laughs

Ice-cream to cover the stereotype jokes

Coffee to keep the PS awake on the return journey.


I drove the Permanent Secretary back.

He yawned many times in back of the car

Then to keep awake, he suddenly asked,

Did you have any lunch friend?

I replied looking straight ahead

And secretly smiling at his belated concern

That I had not, but was slimming!

Upon which he said with a seriousness

That amused more than annoyed me,

Mwananchi, I too had none!

I attended to matters of state.

Highly delicate diplomatic duties you know,

And friend, it goes against my grain,

Causes me stomach ulcers and wind.

Ah, he continued, yawning again,

The pains we suffer in building the nation!


So the PS had ulcers too!

My ulcers I think are equally painful

Only they are caused by hunger,

Not sumptuous lunches!


So two nation builders

Arrived home this evening

With terrible stomach pains

The result of building the nation –

– Different ways.

Kenya Can and Must do better

I congratulate Ezekiel Kemboi for bagging our first Gold at the London Olympics and the rest of our athletes who have so far earned us 5 medals. I send my best wishes to those who still have events and hope that they will add to our medal count.


Ezekiel Kemboi at the London Olympics / Image from

Kenya’s hopes at the London Olympics are dwindling as it seems increasingly unlikely that we will match our performance at the Beijing Olympics. As we try to find answers, allegations of mismanagement, corruption and turf wars between the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOCK) and Athletics Kenya have started to emerge. This has become the bane of our sports and it is unhealthy. The Ministry of Sports should be alive to these challenges and address them conclusively and expeditiously. Continue reading

We cannot mess with the elections this time round

IEBC has in the period of its existence gained much public confidence. The manner in which they have run by-elections and the 2010 Constitutional Referendum, was in great contrast to its predecessor the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Unfortunately, this has started to change. The wrangles between the Secretariat and the Commission are not at all helpful especially at such a critical juncture of Kenya’s history. Continue reading