Panic as Kisii County senior staff face axe over ‘irregular’ hiring

Simba Arati

Kisii Governor Simba Arati (second right), his deputy Robert Monda (right), County Public Service Board Chairperson Nancy Nyamwange (third right) and Assembly Speaker Phillip Nyanumba (third left) receive a report from Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM) Executive Director Quresha Abdullahi (second left) and IHRM Chairman Odero Phillip (left) on February 15.  

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Panic has gripped some Kisii County employees who fear losing their jobs following an investigation into irregular recruitment of staff.

The County Assembly’s Labour committee, which has been interrogating Public Service Board members on the matter, is expected to wrap up its sittings on Thursday and prepare a report which will be presented before the House for debate to decide the fate of those implicated.

The petitioner, Mr Benson Atika, has lodged several claims in a 45-page petition seeking to send board members home for violating the law by allegedly engaging in gross misconduct, illegalities and irregularities in the employment of management staff.

The board urged the committee to dismiss the petition filed before the Kisii County Assembly seeking their removal, saying the petition lacks merit.

Some employees told the Nation that should the board be found to have been involved in irregular recruitment of staff, the finding could seal their fate.

The embattled board chairperson Nancy Nyamwange, members Jackson Bogonko, Mogusu Momanyi, Machuka Ndege and Jude Omare had a difficult time explaining to the committee why they employed hundreds of staff, especially towards the August 2022 General Election, without advertising the positions as required by law.

In addition, the hiring of the board itself was marred by controversy after previous MCAs protested that their recruitment and swearing in was irregularly done by the former regime and that they were installed at night long after the County Assembly had adjourned indefinitely just weeks to the 2022 polls.

“We did not re-advertise while employing youth polytechnic instructors and Early Childhood Development and Education teachers, basically because we were being guided by the principles of prudent use of resources,” said Ms Nyamwange.

Ms Nyamwange’s hiring was also questionable because she had served as a board member and after completing her six-year tenure, she was picked to chair the same board.

  The embattled chairperson declined to respond to questions on why she had worked at the board for more than eight years against the six-year tenure as stipulated in law.

 “I will not respond to that question. I am under oath and I will not be pushed to respond to such a matter,” said Ms Nyamwange as she asked the committee chair and Nyacheki MCA Naftal Onkoba to protect her from further probing on the issue.

“In literature, six plus two can be anything, just the same way one plus one can be 11. The issue of how many years I have served and the legality surrounding that issue is something that I will not discuss here,” she said.

Ms Nyamwange also had a difficult time explaining why the board had extended the contracts of several employees who were over 60 years old, long after retirement.

“They are entitled to get employment just as the youths. If they qualify, they cannot be locked out,” she said, noting that the retirees had specialist skills.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the board vice chairperson, Mr Bogonko, was at pains to explain what the board meant by the purported rare skills of market sweepers, forest guards and garbage cleaners to warrant retention of employees who are past 60 years.

“The law requires that one needs to possess special skills for them to be admitted to the county government payroll, even after they have attained the retirement age of 60,” Mr Bogonko said.

In one of the cases, Mr Toel Ongeri, 63, was allegedly found to possess what the board described as “very rare skills” of enduring the strong stench from the Nyambera dumpsite.

“The rare skill forced us to extend his term of service beyond the mandatory 60 years’ requirement. The dumping site is not a place anybody can just work and it can suffocate even the committee if they dared to make a visit,” said Mr Bogonko.

The Kisii County Assembly has for the past two weeks been hearing a petition filed at the legislative House by a resident, who demanded the removal of the board members on grounds of violating ethical and professional rules.

The committee will also look at alleged systemic weaknesses in the recruitment procedures of staff and provide guidelines to guide the process.