The Nairobi County government is losing more than Sh100 million every month in salaries paid to more than 2,000 ghost workers, an audit of City Hall’s payroll has revealed.
A workers’ headcount in August found that the county government inherited 2,260 fake employees from its predecessor the Nairobi City Council — adding to the burden of a huge wage bill that is at the centre of a workers strike since Monday.
A large segment of the ghost workers is made of serving employees who have conspired with human resource and accounts department officials to earn multiple salaries through multiple entries in the payroll.
The audit found that some workers appear on the payroll up to five times using the same names but different identity card numbers.
There are also a large number of retired or deceased employees in the payroll who continue to draw salaries from the county government every month.
A small number of the ghost workers have also been found to be living abroad.
“Some of the said employees live in Dubai, some are musicians while others are registered more than three times on the pay roll,” said Governor Evans Kidero.
The Kenya Union of County Government Workers dismissed the findings as untrue.
Dr Kidero said the process of right-sizing City Hall’s workforce to the required level of 5,000 had started with the clean-up of the payroll and the removal of ghost workers.
“We will then move to organisation design and job evaluation to match each position with the right skills and send misplaced employees back to the central government as required by law,” he said.
The governor maintained that it is only upon completion of the exercise that the Nairobi county government will pay its staff better based on performance.
The county government workforce remains largely made up of former city council employees, whose transfer to the national government is allowed under the Devolution Act to pave the way for fresh recruitment.
The revelation of the existence of a large number of ghost employees came as 3,000 Nairobi county employees continued with a strike that began on Monday demanding higher pay.
Reports indicated that some 500 City Hall employees, including two union officials, were summarily dismissed for taking part in the strike.
Interim County Secretary Lilian Ndegwa, who signed the dismissal letters, said the action was in line with the Industrial Court’s declaration that the strike is illegal.
“The court order was clear that whoever does not show up at their workplace would face summary dismissal. This is what we have done after taking stock to ascertain who did not report to work,” Ms Ndegwa said.
Kenya County Government Workers Union Nairobi (KCGWU) County branch chairman Benson Olianga and the secretary general Festus Ngari were among those dismissed.
The striking workers littered the streets and engaged the police in running battles for the third day, even as Dr Kidero maintained that the county could not afford to pay higher salaries because the revenues do not match expenditure.
Mr Ngari hit out at the Kidero government for dishonouring the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) forcing the workers to the streets to demand their right.
“All other counties have implemented the CBA that called for wage increment except Nairobi. We are not ghost workers but real people who have been forced to the streets by circumstances,” he said.
The striking workers are demanding implementation of the CBA that directed a 60 per cent wage increment backdated to September last year.
Dr Kidero said that although City Hall was willing to meet the demands of the CBA it lacked the means to do so.
“We would like to meet the 60 per cent pay increase as agreed in the CBA but we have a huge wage bill that is consuming up to 80 per cent of our revenues making it impossible to meet the demands,” he said.
Dr Kidero’s quest to cut the wage bill comes one year after an audit recommended that City Hall should lay off two in every three of its 11,392 workers lacking the relevant skills to perform their roles.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the consultants, said the move would help cut staff costs and improve service delivery.
PwC also recommended that City Hall hires 3,734 skilled workers, including urban planners and engineers to fill the vacant positions arising from staff restructuring. It is not clear whether the county government intends to implement the recommendations.
People familiar with City Hall’s restructuring plans said the office of the governor was contemplating a shake-up of the human resource department to eliminate the problem of ghost workers.
Dr Kidero said he was particularly focused on plugging the public procurement loopholes that have for years been used by corrupt officials to steal millions from City Hall.
“We are collecting 25 per cent of the revenue and intend to adopt technology that will help us fix the gaps and create more revenue,” he said.
That effort could benefit from the integrated financial management information system (IFMIS) that the Treasury has recently established to help address revenue leakage at national and county levels.
A key component of the IFMIS is an automated procurement and payment system that is expected to help seal gaps in the buying of goods and services.
The system — Procure to Pay —links up all government pay points and identifies each users by passwords, meaning each action can be traced back to the initiator.