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lynThe salaries agency is automating vetting of civil servants to capture overpayment of salaries and hidden allowances in the latest bid to curb fraud and weed out ghost workers.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is seeking a single automated system that will capture all public servants, their pay and perks to nab those earning above the rates set by the agency.

The commission, which sets public sector wages, relies on spot-checks and face-to-face interviews in a manual system that creates a loophole for overpayment, especially allowances.

The SRC is concerned that allowances are a major component of the compensation package in the public sector, yet they are not fully disclosed and have the effect of more than doubling workers’ pay.

The system will capture names of all government institutions, their categories such as county or State corporation and the number of employees who are permanent, contractual, casual, interns or on secondment.

Each entity will then feed its wage bill into the system and cite the Kenya Gazette notice on public workers pay issued by the SRC to justify the salaries and allowances being paid.

This will also provide a platform to arrest ghost workers in the national payroll after they made a return less than five years after an audit led to the removal of more than 12,000 fictitious names from the public sector salaries register.

Ghost workers are those who have died, retired or deserted duty, and their presence has been blamed on weak payroll systems at both county and national government levels that made it easier to manipulate the payroll to include fictitious names as State employees.

“The system shall counter-check the actual figures from the institutions against the Commission approved figures. The system shall be able to raise a red flag where compliance is not adhered to,” says the SRC.

This is a pointer that civil servants could be earning perks they don’t deserve, ultimately inflating the wage bill that is now consuming more than half of taxes and impeding spending on development projects.

The wage bill stands at more than Sh800 billion, having risen from Sh458 billion in 2013.

The public sector wages comprises basic salaries, remunerative allowances such as house and commuter; hardship, extraneous, domestic, and risk that are fixed in the pay slip.

Facilitative allowances are paid to meet expenses incurred by officers in the course of duty such as daily subsistence allowance or per diem, which are hidden and bump up civil servants pay.

There are more than 247 remunerative and facilitative allowances, up from 31 in 1999, payable within the public sector.

More emphasis was put on allowances starting 2015 as the government saw it as an alternative to controlling its pension bill by not raising salaries.

State think-tank Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) said that allowances paid to civil servants have made the government the preferred employer and called for a radical review.

Currently, allowances have the effect of doubling employee’s pay and in some instances growing it by a factor of 10.

Kippra recommends capping of allowances to about 25 percent of civil servants’ gross pay while the SRC favours a 40 percent cap.

“Hidden allowances create inequity and unfavourable pay. So, we are basically saying the target is to have 60 percent of your pay in basic salary and the rest in allowances,” the SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich said earlier.

The cut in perks is one of the strategies together with a freeze in new hiring and removal of ghost workers, aimed at reducing Kenya’s ballooning public sector wage bill.

In 2014, a preliminary audit of the public service payroll revealed that taxpayers were losing more than Sh1.8 billion annually to paying ghost workers.

This emerged after 12,500 names of government employees failed to reflect during a biometric registration, forcing the State to strike them off the payroll at the start of November 2014.

The SRC is also recommending an upgrade of the integrated payroll management system to give each public servant a unique identifier so as to eliminate the risk of overpayment or paying ghost workers.

This will see the Treasury restrict pay allocation to departments and State agencies to workers whose details are in the core electronic payroll.

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