PSC rejects proposal to cut out non-practice allowance

Public Service Commission chief executive officer Simon Rotich

Public Service Commission chief executive officer Simon Rotich during a National Assembly committee retreat in Mombasa in February 2021. The commission has opposed plans by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to scrap the non-practice allowance in the civil service. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected a proposal by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to abolish non-practice allowance in public service, handing support to thousands of doctors and lawyers who have protested the plan.

The non-practice allowance was intended to facilitate the attraction and retention of specific scarce and critical professional skills in the public service. At the time, the government was worried that trained professionals would go into private practice, making it hard for the low-paying public sector to attract top talent.

In proposals published late last year, SRC argued that the situation has since changed and there was therefore no need to continue paying the allowance. SRC also wanted the retreat allowance, sitting allowance for institutional internal committee members, and task force allowance scrapped.

“Over the years, the capacity for professional skills in the public service has progressively grown to fill the gap for which the non-practice allowance was payable. It is noted that when a professional chooses to accept a career in the public service, then it implies that the choice presents a better prospect for the affected officer than elsewhere in the economy” SRC argued.

“Consequently, SRC advises that: non-practice allowance be abolished and ceases to be payable; where payment of the allowance is contractual, the payment will continue as a benefit to self. SRC will provide guidance on implementation on a case by case basis; and where payment of the allowance is negotiated under a CBA (collective bargain agreement), the allowance be retained until the lapse of the existing CBA,” SRC said.

But the PSC has rejected the proposal saying the SRC had no mandate to dictate contractual terms between employers and employees.

“Section 10(2)(h) of the Employment Act, 2007, provides that a written contract of service shall state the remuneration, scale or rate of remuneration, the method of calculating the remuneration and details of any other benefits and where changes are made in the written contract, the employer shall in consultation with the employee, revise the contract to reflect the change and notify the employee of the change in writing,” PSC chief executive officer Simon Rotich said in a March 6 memorandum seen by the Nation.

“From the foregoing, it follows that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission can only give advice on abolition and scrapping of the non-practice allowance in a case where the employer has, in consultation with the employees, revised the terms of the employment contract and, where necessary, sought for advice from SRC” he added in the letter addressed to SRC chief executive officer Anne Gitau.

Dr Rotich maintained that non-practice allowance remains relevant in the public service amid talent wars in the labour market.

“Non-practice allowance is driven by skills demand in the market, relative to the number of available professionals against the general population, and is a sector-specific allowance negotiated for inter alia public service doctors and public service lawyers to forestall high attrition in the public service,” he said.

Dr Rotich said the proposed Conflict of Interest Bill 2023 would address any risks of abuse of non-practice allowance as feared by those pushing for its abolishment.

“It should be noted that the payment of non-practice allowance is in line with the proposed Conflict of Interest Bill, 2023, which if passed into law, will bar a public officer serving on a full-time basis from participating in any other employment that amounts to privately practising the same profession for which the official is engaged,” he said.

The PSC boss said given the legitimate expectations of progressive salary reviews, it would be unfair and unlawful to advise the national and county governments to scrap the non-practice allowance for public officers already in employment.

“For the above reasons, it is the humble view and submission of the Public Service Commission that SRC’s jurisdiction to advise the national and county governments as proposed herein has been prematurely invoked,” Dr Rotich said.

“In summary, the SRC’s proposed exercise of its mandate over public officers as described herein is opposed by the Public Service Commission” he added.