Alarm as County wage bills continue to soar

Auditor General Agnes Odhiambo (left) and Turkana Governor in a past event. She has revealed that skyrocketing wage bill at the counties hamper development. [Photo: Standard]

A high wage bill is making it difficult for counties to finance development projects, Controller of Budget (CoB) Agnes Odhiambo has warned.

According to her latest report, the wage bill has increased by Sh27.7 billion in the first quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year, compared to a similar period last year.

The situation has been worsened after it was revealed that counties collectively registered a dismal expenditure of Sh3.5 billion on development activities in the period under review.

This is despite Sh450.2 billion being approved by the various county assemblies for development.

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The report, “County Governments Budget Implementation Review Report First Quarter Fy 2018/19”, indicates that only nine counties reduced their wage bill.

Nairobi County topped the list of counties that reported the highest expenditure on employee salaries.

Governor Mike Sonko’s government spent Sh3.3 billion to offset the wage bill in the period under review.

The county assembly was also listed by the CoB as one of those that spent more on allowances for MCAs.

The Nairobi County administration has been blaming the high wage bill on ghost workers. Last month, City Hall announced that it was planning to issue its staff with bio-metric identification to help weed out impostors.

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At the coast, five counties failed to address their ballooning wage bill.

Committee allowances

In Mombasa County, the wage bill increased by about Sh183 million, even after Ms Odhiambo placed its County Assembly on the spot for paying MCAs Sh90,000 as committee allowances, which is more than the Sh80,000 recommended by the Salaries and Remuneration Committee (SRC).

Kwale, Taita Veta and Kilifi counties increased their wage bill by Sh108 million, Sh56 million and Sh70.3 million respectively.

In Rift Valley, Nakuru County topped the list of counties grappling with a high wage bill. The county used Sh1.48 billion to offset salaries. It ranked third nationally.

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Baringo County was listed in the report as among the top three counties that spent more than 90 per cent of their expenditure on salaries.

The county spent Sh527 million to offset the wage bill, an increase of Sh57 million compared to a similar period in the previous financial year. 

Garissa County recorded a 90.4 per cent increase in its wage bill.

In Nyanza, only Kisii County reduced its wage bill by about 20 per cent. The county spent Sh898 million on salaries as compared to the Sh1.1 billion spent in a similar period in the 2017/2018 financial year.

Staffing structure

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Kisumu and Migori Counties, which intensified the war to streamline their payrolls, however, failed to reduce the skyrocketing wage bill.

The CoB said Migori County increased its wage bill by 37 per cent, spending Sh634 million on it.

“The County Public Service Board should establish and adopt an optimal staffing structure in order to ensure a sustainable wage bill,” said Ms Odhiambo, in reference to Migori.

In Kisumu County, the CoB said the wage bill increased by about 166 per cent. The county spent Sh1.1 billion on salaries.

According to Odhiambo, the high spending on salaries had put development activities on hold.

Controller of BudgetAgnes OdhiamboGovernor Mike SonkoWage billGhost workersKisumu County