City Hall to introduce digital staff cards, biometrics in fight against ghost workers

City Hall staff

Nairobi County employees have their documents verified during a past headcount aimed at flashing out ghost workers at City Hall.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

City Hall has stepped up efforts to weed out imposters and ghost workers from its staff with plans to digitise employees’ records.

The county government has set aside Sh10 million to introduce digital staff cards as well as putting in place biometric access control systems for the more than 13,000 City Hall staff as part of the digitisation plan.

The new development is contained in the Nairobi County Supplementary Budget for the Financial Year ending June 30, 2023.

Governor Johnson Sakaja last November announced his administration planned to launch new biometric system cards to be used to weed out ghost workers at City Hall.

Mr Sakaja said the new staff identification cards will have special features that can be scanned by city residents to confirm that the officer works for the county government.

He explained the special features will include an unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) query system *647# to give one all the information about the holder.

“The new identity documents will be linked to a USSD code to support real-time verification by city residents and particularly businesspeople who have often fallen victim to extortionists,” said Mr Sakaja.

“Once you scan and get a negative response, the trader being harassed can contact the county government customer care or report to the nearest police station,” he added.

Nairobi County has over the years suffered from increased cases of extortion blamed on imposters masquerading as bona fide county workers as there has been no way of identifying genuine employees.

This has resulted in the county government losing revenue to the imposters who print fake receipts, which they use to terrorise traders, posing as county revenue officers.

Many people, including former county employees, have been arrested for impersonating workers, using fake documents and defrauding the county of millions of shillings.

Just last year, City Hall’s Investigations Department arrested Dennis Kinari for forgery of the county government identity documents.

The suspect was found in possession of three fake Nairobi County staff ID cards and purported to work for the Alcoholic Drinks Control and Licensing Board and Monitoring and Evaluation Board.

In July 2016, five people were arrested with fake building plans and approvals, occupational and public health certificates and receipts.

Wage bill

On the other hand, ghost workers contribute to a huge wage bill in the county government.

A previous audit revealed that the county government pays more than Sh100 million every month in salaries to more than 2,000 ghost workers.

The audit also indicated that some of the city hall workers appear on the payroll up to five times using different names and identity card numbers. Other retired or deceased employees also appear on the payroll.

A recent investigation revealed that county governments in Kenya have lost more than Sh35 billion to ghost workers over the years.

A November 2019 biometric report placed the number of employees at City Hall at 11,603, with 5,709 of them aged 50 years and above and only 792 of them being below 35.

However, the number currently stands at 13,422 staff, up from 11,603 in 2019, pointing to a ballooning wage bill.