What you need to know:
- The revelation by a government agency that the Kisii County government has 1,314 ghost workers paints a grim picture of the malaise bedevilling devolution.
- The audit by the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM), which was commissioned by Governor Simba Arati, revealed a massive theft of public funds by corrupt county employees and politicians.
- Millions of shillings were being stolen every month through the payment of salaries to fictitious workers, a number of whom used to be employees but retired years ago.
The revelation by a government agency that the Kisii County government has 1,314 ghost workers paints a grim picture of the malaise bedevilling devolution.
The audit by the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM), which was commissioned by Governor Simba Arati, revealed a massive theft of public funds by corrupt county employees and politicians.
Millions of shillings were being stolen every month through the payment of salaries to fictitious workers, a number of whom used to be employees but retired years ago.
It is not clear how payroll managers failed to smoke out these fake employees. It is also not clear how the money stolen was shared out by those involved.
The ghost workers add to the high wage bills in the counties, reducing what is available for development projects.
The Council of Governors, in their meeting held in Naivasha recently, identified ghost workers as one of the major challenges facing counties.
In the latest Controller of Budget (CoB) report, the aggregate approved budget estimates for the 47 county governments for the financial year 2022/23 amounted to Sh478.87 billion and comprised Sh160.58 billion (33.5 per cent) allocated to development and Sh318.27 billion (66.5 per cent) for recurrent expenditure.
Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o in September 2022 reminded counties that the Public Finance Management (County Governments) Regulations, 2015 require them to not spend more than 35 per cent of their total revenue on wages and benefits for public officers.
In 2021/22, counties spent Sh190.11 billion on wage bills, which was 43.6 per cent of the realised revenue of Sh427.47 billion.
Of the counties that have made their staff audit findings public, Kiambu (2,299) and West Pokot (2,300) had the highest number of non-existent workers.
Murang’a revealed it had lost Sh977.8 million to ghost workers, followed by Nyandarua (Sh404.4 million), Migori (Sh300 million) and Vihiga (Sh130.7 million). Busia County revealed that it had found 116 non-existent workers, but did not state how much the theft costs taxpayers.
In total, the eight counties had 5,953 ghost workers.
To find the irregular payments, auditors checked the number of workers' files in county human resource departments against the payrolls. The payroll had more people than the human resource departments.
Additionally, some counties could not account for some of their staff because they lack personal numbers. In Kisii, for example, the staff audit report showed that there are 270 employees without personal numbers, which means they are being paid outside the payroll system.
“Counties should fast-track the acquisition of staff personal numbers in order to ensure the entire wage bill is processed through the prescribed personnel system,” said Dr Nyakang’o. She advised county governments to migrate to the Unified Human Resource Information System in line with the guidelines by the Head of Public Service.
Kisii County residents have expressed shock over the revelations in the staff audit report and say that there is an urgent need for the key players in the devolution system to put in place disciplinary measures against governors and senior county employees involved in the scams.
They fingered the Senate for dragging its feet in investigating governors whose administrations have overseen the loss of millions of shillings through ghost workers.
One of the highlights of the Kisii staff audit report is to surcharge those who received the payments irregularly.
“We recommend that employees who have benefited be surcharged, officers who approved the irregular promotions be disciplined and the county to develop the performance management framework,” said IHRM Executive Director Queresha Abdullahi.