Anne Waiguru: Biometric listing a win-win solution

With a budget of Sh1.7 trillion, the government has pledged to seal revenue leakages that for decades have bled state coffers dry.

Among the many initiatives launched by the Jubilee administration is the ongoing capacity assessment and rationalisation of public service.

With initial resistance to the process by unions and sections of the civil service, will the biometric registration process help seal leakages in the wage bill? Those responsible for the programme say the registration will go a long way to plug some leakages in government, but insist that in isolation, it cannot provide all the solutions.

“This new system will ensure we have reliable and verifiable data on all our employees. We will not only know them but ensure they are placed in their most fulfilling positions as per their backgrounds and training,” Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning Anne Waiguru told The Standard on Sunday in an interview.

Waiguru said the exercise would contribute significantly to the rationalisation of the public service by determining the actual number of workers and thus rid the public sector of ghost workers. With this verifiable data, the issue of ghost workers within government will be dealt with once and for all. “The issue of ghost workers as well as people getting double salaries or receiving salaries from jobs they quit has long been an issue within government because of a lack of a biometric system that would bring together all employee records. The previous system was automated to a certain degree but remained heavily dependent on data that was manually generated,” Ms Waiguru said.

Last week, the ministry was in Kisumu for the launch of the biometric registration of county staff. All public servants working in ministries, departments and agencies at the national and county governments will be required to physically present themselves at the identification centres with the following documents: original ID card; duly completed biometric data form; original academic and professional certificates; letter of first appointment; letter to the current substantive post; current pay slip; and birth certificate.

Ghost workers

Additional data such as photographs and fingerprints will also be added to details already in the database. At the end of the exercise, persons who will not have been authenticated and their whereabouts not accounted for in terms of authorised leave or absence due to travel and other reasons will be deemed to be “ghost workers” and will be eliminated from the public service payroll.

Ms Waiguru says the biometric system is a tried and tested mode able to cope with all data authentication requirements.

It is also uniquely capable of readily matching employee data derived from the Integrated Personnel Payroll Data (IPPD) against the actual employees who will be required to present themselves in person for the biometric data capture.

“This whole exercise is a joint effort between the county governments and the national government. We want to ensure devolution gets to the people and at the same time make sure efficiency is realised within the public sector,” Ms Waiguru said. At the beginning of the month, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the exercise by being the first civil servant to register on this new system amid calls across unions that the registration was a ploy by government to sack civil servants.

In a statement sent to newsrooms then, Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli alleged the digital registration was aimed at “sacking employees through the back door”.

“The only people who should be worried, and rightly so, are the ghost workers. We cannot let a few people benefit from the toil of others. We want genuine employees to work towards achieving the goals of this administration and for the good of the nation,” Ms Waiguru said. “The devolved government system as well as the transfer of functions to county governments has made it necessary that we align our structures, processes and staffing to core mandates of the government at the national and county level. This is to ensure that the public service is responsive and meets the expectations of Kenyans.”

The registration, also called Capacity Assessment and Rationalisation, is a joint project between the Ministry of Devolution, the Public Service Commission and county governments.

When it kicked off the Transition Authority also sought to assure government employees of the safety of their jobs.