In Summary
  • Tackling a pandemic such as the coronavirus requires strategic and well-thought-out strategies. Realistic budgets have to be done and sources of funding identified.
  • There is a likelihood of various groups similarly agreeing to reductions to raise funds. The citizens need assurance of the safety of such cash.

Since President Uhuru Kenyatta announced voluntary pay cuts for top government officials, debate shifts to the mode of collection, use and accountability for the cash.

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have agreed to an 80 per cent pay reduction.

Cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries and principal secretaries will part with 20 per cent and 30 per cent of their earnings, respectively.

Parliament Speakers Justin Muturi and Ken Lusaka have joined the ranks and announced that they will surrender 30 per cent of their salary for the next three months to support the President’s initiative.

Arguably, this is a good and practical gesture towards supporting efforts to combat coronavirus infections.

The challenge ahead is heavy. Experiences from China and now Europe — Italy, Spain and France — as well as the United States, are scary.

HEALTH SYSTEM

As of Thursday, Kenya had recorded 31 cases of infection and dozens of other people were under investigation to establish their status. The numbers are increasing fast towards crisis levels.

President Kenyatta’s plan of voluntary pay cuts is meant to raise additional funds to plug into the Health ministry budget for fighting the virus.

Already, the health sector is overburdened and the coronavirus is testing it to the limit. Testing kits, case management and isolation of those infected are a costly affair.

If there was any moment the health system required support, it is now.

Ordinarily, the sector requires huge financial injections to function properly but lacks equipment, other resources and personnel. This is why the voluntary pay cutbacks are timely.

TRANSPARENCY

However, this is not the first time President Kenyatta is talking of voluntary salary reductions.

Earlier in his administration, the President announced a 20 per cent pay reduction for himself and Dr Ruto and 10 per cent for ministers and PSs.

Years later, nobody talks about that. How much was raised and how it was used is anybody’s guess.

Not that there is doubt about such gestures. But questions have to be asked about their viability and practicality.

There is a likelihood of various groups similarly agreeing to reductions to raise funds. The citizens need assurance of the safety of such cash.

Tackling a pandemic such as the coronavirus requires strategic and well-thought-out strategies. Realistic budgets have to be done and sources of funding identified.

Ad hoc and hasty decisions are not helpful. If the government wants to raise cash from the public or corporate bodies, it should create a structure through which such funds can be obtained and, importantly, how they are used and accounted for.