A standoff between the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Homa Bay government is the reason county employees have not been paid their April salaries, the Nation has established.
The devolved unit is said to have failed to remit taxes for some workers despite deducting them from their salaries.
This prompted the taxman to obtain a court order to freeze salary accounts of the county government.
Though the county’s finance department said it was addressing the problem, employees asked relevant investigative agencies to summon officials to explain delays in paying salaries as the exchequer had released funds to counties.
Finance Chief Officer Noah Otieno said the crisis resulted from a "minor mix-up" with the KRA even with indications last evening that there was an end in sight for the crisis after the two entities agreed on way forward.
"We are addressing the matter and workers should get their salaries any time from now," he said by phone.
Mr Otieno said the same issue arose some months ago but they sorted it out and this is just a repeat of what the KRA did the last time.
But Kenya Union of Civil Servants Homa Bay branch chairman Tom Akech said withholding salaries was a sign that corruption has taken root in the county’s finance department.
He asked the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) and other bodies to investigate.
"Never has KRA gone to someone if he does not pay tax. It means our taxes are never remitted," Mr Akech said.
He claimed money is always being deducted from their salaries but is not channelled to relevant agencies.
"The same affects the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) as all workers have defaulted from the scheme. Loan repayment is also not being remitted on time," Mr Aketch said.
Overdependence on National Treasury
Homa Bay County entirely depends on funds from the National Treasury to pays its workers and for development
Wages and recurrent expenditure consume the largest share of the budget.
The ongoing cash crisis has affected workers from subordinate staff like drivers and cleaners to directors and executives.
Some workers who have had enough of the salary delays staged a demonstration at the gate of Governor Cyprian Awiti’s office on Monday to press for their grievances to be addressed.
Mr Akech and County Government Workers Union secretary Meshak Onyang led the demo.
The unionists accused Mr Awiti and his cabinet of failing to respond to their strike notice.
"We have not received any audience from any member of the cabinet yet we sent a letter to them informing them that we will not be working without pay. None of them is at the office," Mr Aketch said.
Civil servants said they would only go back to work if their April and May salaries are paid and this will be after they sign another return-to-work formula.
This comes as more people continue piling pressure on Mr Awiti to pay salaries to health workers whose strike has led to the suspension of services at hospitals.
All health workers, including nurses, clinical officers, doctors, and laboratory technicians downed their tools last week.
The health workers are boycotting their duties due to the salary delays.
Homa Bay Kanu Senate aspirant Tom Ojanga said the county government should pay health workers on time.
"Health is a sensitive sector where services should not be taken for granted. Let the county move with speed to pay the workers,” he said.
He added that many people in the county have financial challenges and can only afford to go to public hospitals that offer cheaper services.
"Health services in private hospitals are more expressive. Right now residents are suffering because of poverty. Most of them cannot afford to pay bills in private hospitals," the aspirant said as he asked the next government to prioritise health care.