LET US FOCUS ON THE COMMON GOOD, NOT TECHNICALITIES.
Earlier this week, I announced the Machakos County Government’s intention to pay our health workers a special allowance ranging from Kshs.5,000 to Kshs.20,000 per Month for the next 3 months.
This decision was informed by the severity of the dangers posed on them as the front liners in this unprecedented fight against COVID- 19. It was inspired by the recognition that we MUST DO everything to win this war.
In making the decision, we consulted within the county structures and also with other relevant stakeholders. We consulted with our elected leaders and also listened to the mood on the ground.
Health workers are central in any health system. Even if we had state of the art equipment, drugs, and hospitals, they cannot function without the requisite professionals. Their welfare and motivation is therefore of the highest priority in our national concerted efforts against COVID-19.
As all of us have now come to appreciate, Kenyans are at war with COVID-19. Article One of our constitution ascribes all sovereignty power to the people of Kenya and only delegates it to us the leaders BUT who then exercise it in public interest. At this time, we believe, there is no greater public interest than to motivate the soldiers who are on the frontline to save our nation.
Further, Article 159 (2) of the Constitution, conditions us to look at the bigger picture of substantive justice and not procedural technicalities while making decisions.
It’s in this spirit, that I have been taken aback by a circular addressed to the COG by SRC advising against payment of these allowances. In my respectful opinion, this circular is not only in bad taste but also completely out of tune with the mood and best interest of Kenyans.
At this stage, I wish to make three points:
- SRC is overstepping its mandate. I refer them to the Constitution, Article 230 (4) on the mandate of SRC and I quote: The powers and functions of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission shall be to
a) Set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all State officers and ;
b) Advise the national and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers.
The mandate of SRC when it comes to public officers, as captured by the constitution is to advise and NOT IMPOSE. Standardization of salaries and allowances in the country are good but they should not be an imposition.
The purpose of devolution as captured under Article 174 of the Constitution, among others, is to give self-governance powers to the people in exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions that affect them. This essentially means that county governments as democratically elected governments should not be micro-managed by bureaucrats who have no mandate from the people.
In the same vein, each county has its own priorities. If Machakos decides to pay its health workers and another county thinks otherwise, we are all free to proceed in our preferred direction. It is absurd to force counties to be doing similar programs. This undermines the spirit of devolution.
- It is clear SRC is overreaching in a very bad way at the wrong time and the wrong individuals. We may need as a country to reconsider whether we need the Salaries and Remuneration Commission or whether it is just adding to the confusion and bureaucracy that is slowing down development in Kenya.
- Kenya is not just for the rich who can afford to be treated in private hospitals. The majority go to public hospitals served by public health workers. I care for my people of Machakos and care for the people of Kenya. I, therefore, want health workers in Kenya appreciated and motivated because it is GOOD for all Kenyans.
Therefore, Machakos Government will continue to provide allowances to our employees and especially our health workers and will even look for other ways of motivating them. I will not be cowed by letters from people who are not in touch with the reality on the ground. We are within the law and we will continue exercising our constitutional rights without fear or favor.
I call upon this country to focus on what is a priority at this time. Our limited financial resources should be channeled from non-life-saving sectors to beef up our health system with utmost urgency. That is what I am doing and will continue to do because that is what Kenyans expect of me and my fellow leaders.
This challenge is not only a health sector challenge, it is one which afflicts various sectors in our country. The problem we have in this country is not tribalism, political differences but economic inequality.
For example, teachers do not go on strike because they are greedy – it is because life is difficult and they have to make ends meet. When the price of Unga gets to Kshs.105, it hurts the common mwananchi and they do not protest because they are greedy. Likewise, when our health workers struck some time back for better facilities and remuneration, my county took up the challenge and we did not suffer from the strikes.
This is why it is important for us to make this kind of tough decisions when called upon to do so, and my government is definitely going to improve the welfare and facilities of its medical staff in this tough time as we fight COVID-19.
It is shocking to see Africans, on the basis of their skin color, being mistreated in China. We have not witnessed any Europeans or other nonblack people being mistreated. This is purely racism.
It is ironic for the Chinese to claim Africans are bringing to them COVID-19 whereas the disease came from China.
Even though we are indebted to China and they are our friends, they do benefit a lot from us too. We must call out their racism and tell them we will not tolerate such behavior.
God Bless Kenya.
Dr. Alfred N. Mutua, E.G.H.,
Governor of Machakos &
Maendeleo Chap Chap Party Leader
Sunday, April 12, 2020