Pending bills, ghost workers headache for county bosses

Murang'a Governor Irungu Kang'ata

Murang'a Governor Irungu Kang'ata during an impromptu visit to Murang'a Level 5 hospital following complaints by patients of poor conditions and services.

Photo credit: Martin Mwaura | Nation Media Group

New governors have sustained attempts to weed out ghost workers and reduce a ballooning wage bill.

The county bosses have in the last days conducted impromptu visits to county offices, called for auditing of payroll systems and frozen employment of new staff.

In another headache, the devolved units have a cumulative Sh139.5 billion pending bills, according to a report by the office of the Controller of Budgets.

The report shows that between June 2020 and March 2022, counties settled pending bills valued at only Sh15.9 billion, out of the original Sh155.5 billion, leaving the Sh139.5 billion unsettled.

Ineligible pending bills

On the other hand, a Sh107.12 billion ineligible pending bills raises questions about the procurement messes rocking many devolved units.

“County governments are advised to settle the eligible pending bills as a first charge on the budget in line with Regulation 41 (2) of the Public Finance Management (County Governments) 2015,” the CoB stated.

Mr Abdulswamad Nassir, Mombasa governor-elect, said he will complete all pending projects.

The county has Sh4 billion in pending bills, and is also grappling with uncollected garbage and claims of ghost workers. The county boss must also align some of his development plans with those of the national government since it hosts key national assets such as the Mombasa port.

“After my swearing-in, the county government administration will be that of Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir. I’ll strive to complete the projects he [Mr Joho] started and where there are mistakes, we will rectify them,” he said.

In Taita Taveta, Governor Andrew Mwadime announced plans to audit the human resources system to weed out ghost workers.

The county boss said that the exercise will save taxpayers millions of shillings being spent on non-existing workforce. A report by the Office of the Controller of Budget shows that the county’s wage bill stands at about 42.4 per cent.

“We will also investigate workers who have been employed without due process and look at matters of those who were sacked unprocedurally.  If we remove the ghost workers we will know the way forward,” Mr Mwadime said.

Reduce wage bill

In Lamu, Governor Issa Timamy has also vowed to reduce the county’s wage bill by weeding out non-existed staff. He said the county spent over 60 per cent of its locally collected revenue on paying salaries.

“After scrutiny, I realised there’s a lot of abnormal hiring that was undertaken by the former regime, which has resulted in a high wage bill. I will conduct an audit and ensure ghost workers and other staff illegally recruited are weed out,” said Mr Timamy.

The newly elected Kilifi governor Gideon Mung’aro suspended all payments of contracts, goods and services offered to facilitate a seamless transition.

“To facilitate a seamless transition, and in accordance with the provision of Article 201 of the Constitution of Kenya and the Public Finance Management Act and attendant regulations, I do hereby suspend all payments due to contractors, suppliers and service providers with effect from the date of this letter, except with express authorisation,” Mr Mung’aro said.

Bloated workforce

In Tana River, Governor Dhadho Godhana has suspended eight workers drawn from the office of the governor’s protocol team and enforcement unit and administration. In the Mt Kenya region, new governors have vowed to battle increased wage bills and pending bills they have inherited from their predecessors even as they grapple with the challenges of reducing an already bloated workforce.

In Murang’a, Governor Irungu Kang’ata went to court to prevent the County’s Public Service Board from employing hundreds in August.

“We must get out of this crisis by increasing local revenues otherwise our wage bill plus other expenditures won't have us set aside any development budget,” Dr Kang’ata said.

In Isiolo, Governor Abdi Ibrahim Guyo has warned lazy workers of a sack, saying they all must be committed to serving the public.

Mr Guyo has also ordered a forensic audit of the revenue department to establish loopholes being used by some rogue senior officers to siphon public funds.

In Meru, Governor Kawira Mwangaza read the riot act to ‘corrupt staff and ghost workers’ but at the same called for conciliation with political opponents.

“We have inherited pending bills worth Sh1.2 billion. We will audit all debts to establish the genuine bills. We will also weed out ghost workers and those hired irregularly,” Ms Mwangaza said.

Forensic audit

In Embu, Governor Cecily Mbarire has vowed to undertake a forensic audit into the Sh2.2 billion pending bills left by former regime.

“The pending bills present the single largest challenge because the amount exceeds the money budgeted for development in a single year,” she said.

In Laikipia, Governor Joshua Irungu is inheriting Sh4 billion pending bills owed to various contractors and suppliers of goods and services. This money excludes Sh380 million owed to 61 doctors who were sacked by former governor Ndiritu Muriithi.

Nyandarua governor, Dr Kiarie Badilisha, on the other hand, has called for an audit of hospital drugs saying he was concerned that patients are directed to buy medicines in private pharmacies.

Homa Bay governor Gladys Wanga sent home all senior county human resource managers on compulsory leave pending audit and investigations on human resource and payroll system.

“I urge residents to support my reform initiative to get the county back on track,” she said.

Audit payroll systems

In Busia, Governor Paul Otuoma has ordered for an audit of the county payroll systems to ascertain the number of workers. The governor made an impromptu visit to the referral hospital to inspect the general operations.

In the North Rift, Governor Stephen Sang said that his administration will temporarily halt new development projects to allow him complete pending ones.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, Governor Wisley Rotich faces the challenge of cutting huge expenses on salaries and focus on development expenditure as part of his pre-election plan.

In Baringo, Mr Benjamin Cheboi who made a comeback after he lost the seat to Stanley Kiptis in 2017 is faced with the challenge of completing pending he initiated when he assumed office in 2013 General Election.

Mr Cheboi has pledged to work with Kiptis as he moves to fix infrastructure, security and create conducive business environment.

Reported by Silas Apollo, Mwangi Muiruri, Waweru Wairimu, David Muchui, George Munene, Mwangi Ndirangu, Pius Maundu, George Odiwuor, Okong’o Oduya, Waikwa Maina and Barnabas Bii.