The county government could be paying up to 1,783 ghost workers, according to a staff audit by a firm hired last October.
According to Governor Kiraitu Murungi, most workers did not show up for a staff census carried out by Deloitte Consulting Ltd, which was hired to execute a staff head count, competency and integrity audit.
The final report is expected by the end of this week. Kiraitu said the recommendations would be fully adopted to put an end to revenue drain from staff, estimated to be Sh7 billion of the Sh9 billion available to the county.
Meru has 5,822 workers including 4,601 on permanent and pensionable terms and 1,030 casuals.
According to Kiraitu, who met the entire staff for the first time last week, the workforce is bloated with overlapping structures "and without any sense of direction, organisation culture or discipline".
The new government expressed fears that the huge budgetary constrain from the staff remuneration threatened to frustrate the delivery of campaign promises to residents.
Kiraitu blamed his predecessor Peter Munya, saying he had inherited some departments with 40 per cent over-staffing and others with 80 per cent under-staffing.
“Staff disciplinary procedures have not been followed and many staff who should have been summarily dismissed are still in office,” he added.
He claimed that the audit had shown that over 500 workers were hired and another 600 plus promoted during the campaign period last year.
“Huge sums of money, about Sh40 million was paid to 10 staff members including sub-county and ward administrators as imprest between January and August 2017 some of which has not been surrendered to date,” added Kiraitu.
He said the county government was mulling a retrenchment exercise and payroll cleanup to clear up the mess left by the former county administration.
Kiraitu said he expected the reforms to be opposed by beneficiaries, but maintained he was not driven by malice.
And the issue is not unique to Meru alone. In November last year, Nandi Governor Stephen Sang revealed that the county spends over 200 million monthly on 300 ghost workers.
According to an audit report, casual workers in the county are 1,090 but 300 did not turn up for a headcount and were thus termed as “ghosts”. Sang blamed his predecessor Cleophas Lagat for the mess.