A report by the Auditor-General has unveiled that 21 government employees within the Public Works department pocketed a staggering average of Sh7.4 million each in per diem allowances during the 2021/22 fiscal year.
These employees, tasked with inspecting various projects across the nation, managed to earn a total of Sh155.5 million collectively in domestic travel and subsistence allowances.
Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu’s report shines a light on the burgeoning practice of civil servants benefiting from hefty per diem allowances.
These payments amounted to a daily allowance of Sh20,294, based on the assumption that the workers were on duty all 365 days of the year, weekends and holidays included.
The Public Works department, responsible for enhancing living and working conditions in government buildings, as well as developing and maintaining essential infrastructure, has faced criticism for these excessive payments.
Gathungu commented, “This clearly shows that officers were in the field for more days than the work schedule can accommodate and possibly more than the working days in a year. In the circumstances, the propriety and value for money of Sh155,555,931 could not be confirmed.”
The department’s overall spending on employee compensation, encompassing basic salaries, wages, and allowances, totaled Sh807.1 million.
Remarkably, the Sh155.5 million in per diem allowances constituted a staggering 19.3 percent of the entire employee compensation budget.
Despite ongoing efforts by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to regulate allowances, the revelation raises concerns about the allocation and oversight of public funds.
The SRC had initiated a plan to cap allowances at 40 percent of an employee’s gross salary, aiming to curb the skyrocketing public wage bill.
“The SRC has faced several challenges, such as litigation where some institutions and organizations have taken SRC to court over the proposed reviews even before the issuance of the final advice, thus delaying the process,” SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich revealed, pointing to resistance from some government entities.
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As Kenya’s public wage bill swelled to Sh1.055 trillion by the previous year, allowances have emerged as a major contributor to this increase.
The SRC, in a move to address the situation, had released guidelines in October 2021 aimed at reducing the number of allowances and aligning them with basic salaries. Some workers were found to be earning allowances exceeding 259 percent of their basic salary.
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