Meru county seeks to tame ballooning wage bill

Meru CECs Kawira Mwangaza

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza (Centre) with a section of members of the executive committee on March 20, 2023. The Meru government plans to cut the ballooning wage bill.

Photo credit: David Muchui I Nation Media Group

The Meru County Government is considering a staff audit aimed at cutting the ballooning wage bill in efforts to release more funds for development.

The law requires that the county governments spend no more than 35 per cent of its budget on remuneration of workers, but Meru spends about 50 per cent on salaries and allowances.

In the last 10 years, the Meru County wage bill has doubled from Sh2.4 billion in 2013/2014 financial year to Sh4.7 billion in 2022/2023.

According to Meru Finance executive Monica Kathono, the Kawira Mwangaza administration is now looking into ways of cutting expenditure and increasing local revenue.

“One of our biggest concerns as a county government is the fact that about 50 per cent of the revenue goes to paying salaries. This is partly because of the high number of county workers forwarded from the local government in 2013. We want to audit our workforce to establish our human resource needs," Ms Kathono said during an interview on Baite TV.

She added, "The audit will tell us if there are ghost workers and whether the extra 15 per cent of staff must be retained. This will be done in adherence to labour laws.” 

She said the situation was so dire that in this financial year, the county can only pay salaries up to May.

“Currently, we do not have money to pay salaries for June. We are looking into ways of increasing our local revenue to address some of these challenges,” she said.

Wage bill

According to a recent supplementary budget, Meru County’s wage bill grew from Sh4.7 billion to Sh5.3 billion due to Sh590 million in salary arrears accrued from 2021/2022 financial year. The county will spend Sh3.6 billion on development this financial year.

Ms Kathono said the county had implemented stringent spending measures, leading to cutting down on airtime, travel and hospitality budgets. 

In the supplementary budget, Ms Kathono did away with more than 24 million in airtime allowances for top executive officials.

The travel budget shed more than Sh20 million while hospitality and catering had more than Sh21 million cut.

"We are keen on doing away with unnecessary expenditure to release money for development. As a member of the executive, I also don't have airtime allowance. We have also avoided unnecessary travel costs," she said.

Governor Mwangaza also said she had cancelled a foreign trip to America to save money.

"I was to travel to America a week ago but I cancelled because of the costs involved. I travelled to South Korea because the trip was fully sponsored by our partners. Our intention is to ensure every coin goes to development," Ms Mwangaza said.

The county is eyeing Sh600 million in local revenue by the end of this financial year.