Governor Arati taken to task over payroll scam leading to Sh5.7b wage bill

Kisii Governor Simba Arati when he appeared before committee on County Public Investments and Special Funds on March 29, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Senate County Public Accounts Committee took Kisii Governor Simba Arati to task over payroll manipulation that has left the county government struggling with an annual wage bill of Sh5.7 billion.

The committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang said the revelations of a payroll scam in an audit by the National Treasury was a clear indicator of human resource challenges in the county.

Mr Kajwang asked Mr Arati to explain what action he had taken to address the human resource irregularities, eight months after assuming office.

This is after the audit report showed the sharing of payroll numbers and bank accounts, amended birth dates and identical identification numbers.

“This committee would like to know what action Kisii Governor Simba Arati has taken on officers he suspects could have committed irregularities since it is clear that he has retained some of those who may have participated in the mess in his administration,” said the committee chair.

The governor told the committee that a new audit will establish the accuracy of the earlier audit report, saying officers in the previous administration could have wanted to clear themselves.

He said he was being held accountable for mistakes committed by senior staff in the previous administration, noting that he was trying his level best to ensure the systems were working to clean up the mess. Arati told the committee that he was cleaning up the payroll in an effort to reduce the ballooning wage bill.

“The reason why I ordered an audit of the county payroll was to ensure that we do not lose money that could have been used for development into paying staff who are not offering any services to the residents. I promise to ensure systems are working in Kisii county,” he said.

Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka asked the governor why he did not report the payroll scam unearthed by the National Treasury audit to investigative agencies, and instead opted to begin a new audit. Onyonka told Arati to stop blaming the former regime and instead focus on delivering election promises to residents.

Nominated Senator Mariam Sheikh Omar termed the fresh audit a waste of public resources and urged the county boss to act on the audit report by the National Treasury. 

Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo questioned why the governor was saying there are no problems at the county yet he paraded staff and vehicles after taking the oath of office and revealed the county has 1,200 ghost workers.

Nyandarua Senator John Methu asked Arati to tell the committee where he got information about the ghost workers.