A bloated government refers to a situation where the size of the government in a country is considered excessively large relative to its population and economic capacity. This is often characterized by the existence of many government agencies, departments, and positions, leading to a high wage bill and increased public spending. Kenya has developed very progressive legislation to promote efficiency and productivity in public service. The CoK2010 provides for the principles of good governance, including accountability, transparency, and effective management of public resources. Article 201(1) provides that public finance shall be managed in accordance with the principles of transparency, accountability, and participation. Similarly, Section 4 of the PFM Act provides that public funds shall be used only for purposes authorized by law and in a manner that is economical, efficient, effective, and transparent.
Despite the provisions of the law, Kenya has been grappling with the issue of a bloated government for many years. Citizens are overrepresented as positions are created by incoming administrations after elections to reward their allies disregarding the burden such decisions would have on the taxpayers. For instance, the recent appointment of 50 Cabinet Administrative Secretaries (CASs) by the President and Deputy President has raised concerns about the size of the Kenyan government. The addition of these CASs adds over Kshs 450M monthly in wages and allowances without factoring in other benefits that come with those offices. The appointments come at a time when taxpayers are struggling to maintain the Twenty-Two Cabinet Secretaries, Fifty-One Principal Secretaries, four hundred and sixteen legislators, judiciary staff, heads of parastatals, commissions, agencies and department each one drawing a huge perk every single month. This policy brief explores the impact of a bloated government on common citizens and highlights some of the policy recommendations aimed at keeping the government lean and productive in delivering quality services to the people of Kenya.
Effects of Bloated Government
Bloated government has several negative effects on the economy and common citizens, including:
High public expenditure: A bloated government leads to increased public expenditure, which strains the economy, leading to inflation and high taxes. This, in turn, overburdens the common citizen who already struggles to make ends meet. This despite that more than 15M Kenyans are living below the poverty line (approx. 32% of the total population) according to KNBS report.
High taxation: High taxes reduce the disposable income of citizens, leaving them with less money to spend on other needs. This can lead to a decrease in the standard of living, especially for low-income earners.
High indebtedness: With the already unsustainable debt levels approximated at 68% of GDP (Kshs8.7T) the government may be forced to borrow more to finance the increasing wage bill, leading to an increase in the national debt. High debt levels limit the government’s ability to invest in other sectors of the economy, leading to slow economic growth.
High cost of living. The government is a significant consumer of goods and services, and the increasing wage bill may lead to an increase in the cost of these goods and services. This can lead to an increase in the cost of living for citizens, especially for those who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Low productivity: Large government institutions are characterized by bureaucratic red tape, which leads to slow decision-making processes, delayed service delivery, and low productivity. This negatively affects the common citizen who relies on government services.
Corruption: A large government provides more opportunities for corruption, as there are more people involved in decision-making and service delivery. This not only affects the economy but also undermines the common citizen’s trust in government institutions.
Poor governance: A bloated government creates an environment where politicians can easily manipulate and control government institutions, leading to poor governance and accountability.
Rationalize government structures and functions: The government should undertake a comprehensive review of its structures and functions to identify areas where there is duplication or overlap. This could involve consolidating agencies or departments that perform similar functions to reduce administrative costs and increase efficiency.
Implement performance-based management: The government should adopt a performance-based management system to ensure that public officials are held accountable for their performance. This could include setting performance targets, conducting regular evaluations, and providing incentives for good performance.
Promote transparency and accountability in public service: The government should ensure that there is transparency in its operations and decision-making processes. This could include publishing regular reports on its activities and expenditures, conducting regular audits, and ensuring that citizens have access to information about government activities.
Invest in technology and innovation: The government should invest in technology and innovation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations. This could involve automating processes, digitizing records, and adopting new technologies to improve service delivery.
Streamline public procurement: The government should streamline its procurement processes to reduce the risk of corruption and increase efficiency. This could involve implementing e-procurement systems, standardizing procurement procedures, and increasing competition among suppliers.
Develop a culture of service excellence: The government should prioritize the development of a culture of service excellence among public officials. This could involve training and capacity-building programs to equip public officials with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide quality services to citizens.
A bloated government is a burden to the common citizen, leading to increased public expenditure, low productivity, corruption, and poor governance. A lean but still productive, efficient, and effective government is essential for promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving livelihoods. It is important for the government to implement policies and legislations aimed at keeping the government lean and productive in delivering quality services to the people of Kenya. This will not only improve the economy but also restore the common citizen’s trust in government institutions.