Governors struggle to pay bloated workforce

Kirinyaga Governor Annie Mumbi Waiguru and Council of Governors Chairman Wycliff Opranya (middle) and his vIce Mwangi wa Iria at Norkas Riverine Hotel & SPA for inspection in preparation for the annual devolution conference. [Photo:Boniface Gikandi]

A bloated workforce has been a thorn in the flesh in the management of counties.

A 2015 audit had recommended that 39,000 workers be retired from the civil service. But the same county chiefs have been accused of hiring more staff without following the laid down procedures.

Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) said the bloated workforce was financially draining counties, leaving them with little funds for development.

Mr Oparanya proposes that the national government intervenes to help address the crisis. 

"The council proposes that counties be given Sh4 billion so that we use it as a handshake to offload the workers we inherited from the defunct local and municipal councils," he said.

Audit report

According to the Capacity Assessment and Rationalisation of the Public Service Programme (CARPS) audit report, the number of public servants registered at both levels of government are 199,921.

Of this figure, 72,923 (36 per cent) are in the national government while 126,998 (64 per cent) are in county governments. 

Some 70,416 officers were from the devolved ministries, accounting for 70 per cent of the counties’ workforce, while the defunct local authorities contributed 32,237 (30 per cent).

The report by the Inter-governmental Steering Committee chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015 recommended aggregation and implementation of the recommended optimal staffing levels by reducing county staff by 38,858.

While some counties, including Kakamega, Nairobi and Mombasa, have maintained their staffing levels based on the report, others such as Busia, Tharaka Nithi, Machakos, Kisumu, and Meru insist the workforce must be trimmed based on the CARPs report.

Staffing levels

According to the CARPS report, 24 counties proposed staffing levels that were in excess of 100 per cent. Only four counties - Nyeri, Narok, Busia, and Nairobi - proposed lower staffing levels.

The report show that Nairobi has the highest number of staff from the defunct local authorities at 10,915. This was just above a third of all the staff. Lamu had the least staff at 44.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has previously said his administration is doing a headcount of its workforce and the findings will inform decisions to be taken.

"We commissioned a public survey headed by Morindat Lebo, the Deputy County Secretary, last month. The headcount is intended to establish the actual numbers of employees we have. If it reveals that we have ghost workers, then we will have to do away with them," Mr Sonko said.

According to the CARPS report, Busia was one of the counties that inherited a large workforce from the defunct local government authorities.

Out of 2,145 staff, 1,659 were transferred from devolved ministries while 486 were from the defunct local authorities.

“We inherited staff from local authorities, some of them with no skills. The audit recommended their removal. These are the ones we are insisting must go,” said Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong.

Only Mandera seems comfortable with its wage bill. 

"We have the least wage bill among the 47 counties," said Governor Ali Roba.

In Tharaka Nithi, Governor Muthomi Njuki sent home 1,000 workers on his first day in office.

The incessant wrangling over workers in counties has attracted the attention of the Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM).

According to IHRM, County Public Service Boards (CPSBs) lack employment policy guideline, which has allowed politics to become the hallmark of employee appointments, promotion and dismissal.

Elijah Sitimah, the institute’s national chairman, warned of difficult times ahead in case the trend observed in the past five years was upheld.

“IHRM wishes to inform the public on the impending expiry of tenure of all 47 CPSBs and demand that qualified, and certified members of the HR fraternity be considered in subsequent appointments,” Mr Sitimah said.

People management

He demanded that CPSBs must have a qualified and licensed HR professional as either the chairperson, chief executive officer or at least a board director to address people management issues as witnessed in the past five years.

“We have an obligation to the public to ensure that human capital management is in line with existing global standards. This includes ensuring that boards in counties, whose mandate is fundamentally HR in nature, are properly constituted with relevant skills and competencies,” Sitimah said.

He said as the tenure of the 47 CPSBs comes to an end and as the appointment of their successors begins, IHRM was opposed to the provision that board chairpersons be certified public secretaries.

Uhuru intervention

“We appeal for the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta to offer guidance in the enactment of a law that will guide change management and transitions when a governor leaves office,” Sitimah said.

He said the institute had drafted a Bill, which was in its Second Reading at the Senate, to guide HR management in counties.

“It is our hope that the Bill will be approved and the President to offer leadership through the party mechanisms. The passage of the Bill will bring stability and offer security of tenure to county employees,” he said.

The IHRM Executive Director Dorcas Wainaina urged Governors to develop HR policies and conduct a skills audit to achieve proper placement and attain proper skill utilisation.

“It is sad that most of the cash given to counties is used to pay salaries. We need an urgent audit of staff so that we can retain those who are qualified for the available jobs and save money to use for development,” Ms Wainaina said.

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2015 auditCouncil of GovernorsWycliffe OparanyaCARPSGovernor Mike SonkoWorkforceWage bill