Workers face tough times as pay delays hit counties

Martin Wambora

Council of Governors chairman Martin Wambora.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Workers tell of financial hardships, with dozens facing evictions.
  • In Taita Taveta County, about 3,000 workers are yet to receive their January and February pay.

Thousands of workers in at least eight counties have gone without salaries for up to five months, with the National Treasury being blamed for delays in disbursing funds to the devolved units.

Staff in Taita Taveta, Murang’a, Kisumu, Migori, Bomet, Kericho, Meru and Makueni are struggling to foot their bills, and some counties are now asking workers to stay at home.

For the majority of the counties that have been paying, some governors have had to divert budgets from other critical services, as others take bank overdrafts and loans.

The Exchequer owes the 47 counties more than Sh66 billion, according to the Council of Governors, amid reports that The Treasury is running on empty.

In Taita Taveta County, about 3,000 workers are yet to receive their January and February pay. In an internal memo, County Secretary Liverson Mghendi last week announced a salary delay for  March and April.

In Murang’a, some county staff are entering the fifth month without pay. 

This follows termination of overdraft arrangements between banks and the county government after three months of non-settlement of earlier credits.

Gone unpaid for two months

Worst affected are casuals and lower cadre workers. In an internal memo dated April 16, the county cites delayed disbursements from the central government as the cause of their woes. While appealing for patience, the memo commits the administration to clearing some arrears using locally generated revenues by the end of April.

In Kisumu, workers have not been receiving their full salaries since the beginning of the year.

Kenya County Government Workers Union Kisumu branch secretary Rashid Ondu said the county had also not been forwarding statutory deductions, bank loans and pension, among other payments. He said Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o had promised to meet them this week to address the crisis. 

In Migori, staff have gone unpaid for two months after banks withheld overdrafts, citing delays in loan repayment.

Workers affected by the hitch said banks had withheld their salaries after the county finance department failed to process their loan repayments due to a cash crunch.

The banks are now sending messages to the affected workers, warning that they will be listed with the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) for failing to repay their loans. County Secretary Christopher Rusana said the matter was being addressed.

In Bomet and Kericho, workers have not been paid their February and March salaries. A county government employee in Bomet said they were unable to pay rent and meet other basic needs.

Allowances frozen

In Makueni, ward reps and assembly staff have not received March pay. The situation is compounded by the freezing of their allowances totalling Sh29 million by the Office of Controller of Budget following an advisory by Governor Kivutha Kibwana.

The financial woes are caused by delays in the disbursements from the National Treasury, Prof Kibwana said.

“The county government prioritises the payment of salaries and the payment of contractors with the little money it gets from Treasury,” he said.

In Tana River, casual workers have gone without pay for four months. The more than 200 casuals told of financial hardships, with dozens facing evictions for failing to pay house rent.

In Meru, County Secretary Rufus Miriti said they have been relying on bank overdrafts to pay salaries for the last three months.

“The last time we received money from Treasury was December. The situation is dire,” Mr Miriti said. 

In Nakuru, Narok, Laikipia and Nyandarua counties, sources said that governors have turned to “other sources” and “innovative ways” to pay their employees.

“We sought for money from other local revenue sources to ensure our workers are paid in time, despite the delays by the National Government to release money,” Peter Ketyenya, Nakuru County Finance Executive said.

Reported by Lucy Mkanyika, Stephen Oduor, Mwangi Muiruri, David Muchui, Steve Njuguna, Pius Maundu, Victor Raballa, Ian Byron, Eric Matara, Alex Njeru, Jacob Walter and Vitalis Kimutai