Vihiga health workers demand their two-year pay amid budget crisis

HEALTH & SCIENCE |

Vihiga County Health workers protesting over unpaid salaries, March 2015. [Eric Lunga, Standard]

The trouble surrounding the Vihiga County health sector was laid bare during the Senate's Devolution Committee meeting that was held following the suspension of the implementation of the county’s budget for the 2021/22 financial year.

The county has been battling with financial difficulties after the High Court in Kakamega issued a conservatory order stopping the implementation of the budget that had been approved by the County Assembly.

The petition challenging the legality of the budget was filed by former County Secretary Francis Ominde and political activist Joseph Simekha.

In the petition, Ominde and Simekha raised concerns regarding how the county government led by Governor Wilbur Ottichilo was intending to use the budget. They also claimed the budget was never approved by the cabinet.

The Senate committee meeting had been convened to hear both sides over the budget stalemate and offer solutions.

It was during the meeting that the long-standing salary dilemma of over 500 health workers was raised.

Governor Wilbur Ottichilo. [Courtesy]

The Senate Devolution Committee meeting held at Sosa Cottages was chaired by Senator Rose Nyamunga and attended by Ottichilo and his deputy Patrick Saisi, County Executive Committee Members, County Assembly's leadership and several budget stakeholders.

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, Vihiga chapter, official Walter Andoli opened the lid on how the county had not honoured a court order instructing it to pay medics' two-year salary.

"Our interest in the budget matter is only one, not the procedure but the content that will allow us to be paid our two-year dues," Andoli told the committee.

The health workers were recruited in 2019 by the County Public Service Board (CPSB).

The health department, through the previous County Public Service Board, in 2019 had advertised for 149 vacancies. However, it was later discovered that 528 health staff were recruited under unclear circumstances.

This prompted Ottichilo to suspend pay for the over 500 health workers who he said were irregularly employed.

Andoli told the committee that non-payment of the salaries and allowances from November 2019 to date had sent many in depression.

"These health workers report on duty to serve the public duly but it's very sad they have not been paid for the last two years. This is not fair," said Andoli as he shed tears.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga (second left) and Vihiga Governor Dr Wilber Ottichilo (right). [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The health workers were dismissed through a gazette notice on December 2, 2019.

The affected staff moved to court to stop any action being taken against them and they got a reprieve when the Employment and Labour Relations Court sitting in Kisumu issued stay orders.

In his response, Ottichilo said his government will start paying the salaries of 528 other health workers who have gone without pay for two years when the budget stalemate is over.

The governor blamed the delay of the payment on the two petitioners who got court orders stopping the implementation of the budget.

The governor was also critical that the CPSB failed in recruitment and it was to blame on the whole matter citing massive irregularities and illegalities in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Public Finance Management Act 2012 and other related provisions of the law. 

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