Nairobi county to inherit debts, bills from city council

PricewaterhouseCoopers country senior partner Kuria Muchiru (left) hands over the human resource audit report to Nairobi town clerk Philip Kisia at City Hall on April 12, 2012. The study found most council employees were not qualified. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Report shows how the new devolved government will fail to fulfil its obligations if it takes over the local authority as it is

The Nairobi County government is likely to inherit the rotten structures of the City Council.

A new report by professional services firm Price Waterhouse Coopers has warned that the city authority, which would be transformed into the county government, might not be able to fulfil its obligations because of a staggering burden of incompetence and a huge wage bill.

“If the council is not able to deliver against its mandate, it (the county) runs the risk of being governed through the central government,” it warns.

Under the devolved government system, the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) will be distributing a fixed share of the national cake to counties based on population, poverty, land area, basic equal share and fiscal discipline.

But the findings by PwC show huge problems in the council’s financial management, poor human resource recruiting policy, outdated job descriptions that sometime overlap, too many job grades and incompetence.

For instance, more than half the council’s 11,500 employees never went beyond primary school, while a third of the staff in managerial positions holds no more than undergraduate degrees. More than 10,000 (92 per cent) have no clue about the jobs they do.

As the council prepares to mutate to the county structure, PwC found that about two-thirds of the existing workforce will not be relevant in the devolved system.

Biggest expenditure

“7,410 staff within the council do not match any of the positions in the new structure,” says the report. The employees take home Sh7 billion annually, making the City Council the government agency with the biggest expenditure on salaries against income.

Of concern is the revelation that most critical departments lack sufficient personnel.

The city authority lacks staff in the fields of engineering, fire fighting, physical planning, architecture, information technology and financial management but has excess secretaries, cleaners, ticket givers, askaris, tea girls and gardeners.

“There are opportunities for redeployment or transfer of excess staff to other counties,” the report proposed, adding that some could also be retrenched.

In a city of more than four million residents, there are only seven planners and four electrical engineers.

This might partly explain why unregulated housing construction is common in the city. In addition, there are just 96 firemen, and only 20 of them can be on duty at a time.

This leaves a deficit of about 900 to match international standards. The county will require about 3,700 skilled workers.“One of the things we are looking forward to is the implementation of this report,” said PwC Senior Partner Kuria Muchiru.

“It has far-reaching recommendations and will require courage, dedication and consistent implementation.”

On Friday, council officials showed little urgency to rectify the situation. At the launch of the report, Town Clerk Phillip Kisia said it would take long to implement it because some of the recommendations touch on departmental heads.

“Implementation will take some time. We will need to study it carefully and consult widely,” he told reporters. But he disagreed with the suggestion to transfer excess staff to other counties.

“It is backward to transfer officers who don’t perform. They should just be sent home.” said Mr Kisia who will be leaving office later this month.

A quarter of the employees are nearing retirement, but it is unclear whether the council can pay their retirement package.

By last year, the city was choking on the Sh21 billion in debts owed to retirement pension funds like the Local Authority Provident Fund and NSSF, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), goods supplied, electricity bills and other services offered.

“Probably, you can now understand why sometimes it is difficult to pay our staff,” said Mr Kisia.So, will the council be brave enough to do away with the excess baggage?

City officials could not confirm that.

Equity Bank later cleared part of the pension debt by remitting Sh5 billion on behalf of the Council, under an agreed loan.

The city still is yet to pay other debts. Last month, some employees refused to work demanding salaries going back to as many as four months. So, will the Council be brave enough to do away with the excess baggage?  City officials could not confirm that.