County to conduct audit to weed out ghost workers

Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime.

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

Taita Taveta County is set to undertake an audit to weed out ghost workers who are draining millions in taxpayer funds.

The review is meant to save millions of shillings pumped out annually by the local government to pay non-existent employees fraudulently placed on the payroll.

It will also investigate illegal recruitment and promotions of workers, who are minting millions in salaries and allowances.
Governor Andrew Mwadime said the audit will help reduce the high wage bill.

The wage bill now stands at 42.4 per cent.

But Mr Mwadime acknowledged a shortage of staff in some departments and pledged to find a balance between hiring new workers and reducing the wage bill.

There have been suspicions that ghost workers are earning salaries and other benefits from the county government.

"We will also investigate workers who have been employed without due process and look at matters of those who were sacked un-procedurally. If we remove the ghost workers, we will know the way forward," he said.

In March, as he campaigned for re-election, former governor Granton Samboja put over 60 health workers under permanent and pensionable terms.

The governor was also known to create job vacancies to reward his supporters.

"Some are working in areas where they are not qualified, especially in the health department. It is even a risk to our patients," Mr Mwadime said.

On Tuesday, the governor and his deputy Christine Kilalo met the leaders of unions representing county workers to hear their grievances. 

"When the county assembly starts its sittings, we will see how we will address the issues raised," Mr Mwadime said.

Addressing the union leaders, Ms Kilalo said she was optimistic the situation in the county would change.

"The expectations from residents and our workers are huge. We may not achieve 100 per cent but we will give our best and there will be a significant difference," she said.

Meanwhile, the unions complained about late payment of salaries, poor working conditions, non-remittance of third-party deductions, and lack of a comprehensive health insurance cover, among other issues.

"We were also subjected to intimidation and punitive transfers. Those who clashed with the administration were transferred to remote areas as punishment," said Kenya County Government Workers Union branch secretary Freygod Shwashwa.

Unions representing health workers also asked the new governor to order the payment of withheld salaries for December 2019 to March 2022.

The salaries were stopped by the county government after the medics went on strike over unresolved grievances. 

"The county also owes us our Covid-19 allowances, which have not been paid since 2020," said Denis Mwamburi, the secretary-general of the local branch of the Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (Knumlo).


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