Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Burden of Compensating Retired Public Officials: Can the Country Afford?

The list of retired or redundant public officials claiming compensation from the public purse grows by the day.  The high profile of these officials led by the former President Daniel arap Moi, Vice President Moody Awour includes judges who opted to retired with full pension after the 2003 judicial radical surgery, former Members of Parliament, and former Kenya Anti-corruption Commission Aroan Ringera and other commissioners. Within the new constitutional dispensation, many judges will be retired, the current KACC director and commissioners have been shown the door, many MPs will lose their seats in the coming election, not to mention the President will retire, and who knows the Prime Minister and the Vice President may too retire or might not be elected back to public office. Then there are judicial officials and judges due to be retired according to the current constitution vetting requirement. The list goes on especially when we include lower profile officials like permanent secretaries. Can the country really afford to foot the monetary compensation bills for all these officers?

If the current trend continues, the country will drown under the bills of compensation. It is, therefore, important to rethink and restate the essence of public service. Does public service entitle the holder of an office unmitigated pecuniary advantage? Can the public afford to pay exaggerated compensation to these officers as the private sector does? Sometimes the money is being paid for services not rendered as in the case of compensating one for the remaining term of contract. Should officers who leave office and subsequently find new employment or are self-employed continue to draw benefits associated with their former employment? Isn't it a case of double payment to compensate such officers? I raise these issues because it is important to have debate on the matter. Just think about the current issue of compensating the MPs so that they can pay taxes due according to the law. Can the country afford this waste of public resources?

In Norway, the practice is that officers who leave their office because of retirement, change of law or government, do not get unmitigated compensation. Those who retire are entitled to retirement benefits just like any other worker during their retirement. The retirement benefits are calculated not according to your office but the number of years you served and the points you accumulated during that period. You do not get anything beyond what you have not earned for your retirement. If you retire and then get a new job elsewhere, you cannot continue to draw your retirement benefits at the same time as you get a salary from your new job.

Where public officials leave office due to change of law or government, such as cabinet ministers or MPs due to new election, they do not get exorbitant compensation. The practice is that they continue to draw their salaries for a limited time period or until they find new employment whichever comes first.

In 2010, the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Økomrim) prosecuted two former MPs, Conservative (H) MP Anders Talleraas and ex Centre Party (Sp) MP Magnus Stangeland for illegally drawing a total of over three million kroner in pensions, because they had well-paid jobs at the same time. It also claimed the two failed to give Parliament’s Pensions Board (Pensjonsstyret) proper information about their incomes, which would have meant losing their right to receive a so-called self-awarded “golden pension”. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Prime Minister, was herself part of a group of six who received a higher pension than they were entitled to at the time, however, she paid back what she had received voluntarily several years before the case exploded in the media in 2008. She later testified in the case involving the two. They were found guilty and received custodial sentences of 6 months and 60 days, respectively.

The former Prime Minister was also involved in another controversy after receiving an operation for cancer in 2002 at Ullevål University Hospital. In 2008, it became known that during 2007 she had received two treatments at Ullevål, paid for by Norwegian public expenditures. She had previously notified the Norwegian authorities that she had changed residence to France, and as such she was no longer entitled to benefits of Norwegian social security. Following intense media attention surrounding the matter, Brundtland decided to change residence once more, back to Norway, and she also announced that she would be paying for the treatments herself.

Isn’t it a high time that the public were informed the true figures involved in these compensation schemes? The Treasury through the Minister of Finance should give an official statement to parliament on the matter. The media should too carry out its own investigative research on the matter for public information.

See related view:

Compensation: Since when didpublic office become property of incumbents?

1 comment:

Sean Mac said...

It is sickening...

By the way how does this blog not have other people commenting? I've now favorited it and shall return.

By the way, why exactly are you in exile? I'm sure it's safe to tell. You are at no risk of being kidnapped by Kenyan secret service in Norway!