Arati, Onyonka clash as salaries of 740 county workers stopped

Kisii governor Simba Arati and Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka at a past function. The two leaders have differed after the county administration stopped the salaries of over 740 county workers in Arati's ongoing efforts to weed out ghost workers. [File, Standard]

A fresh political tussle is brewing in Kisii between Governor Simba Arati and Senator Richard Onyonka following the decision by the devolved unit to stop salaries for 740 county staff.

It is alleged that those affected by the directive include staff who did not turn up for a headcount conducted in November last year to weed out ghost workers.

 Onyonka termed the move unprocedural and has invited the Office of the Auditor General and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to intervene. 

In a statement, the senator said a Human Resource Audit report, following the staff headcount, was never released to the county assembly or his office for debating and adoption.

"Its contents, findings and recommendations are strange to the offices. It has remained a document of the executive as much as it touches on matters of public importance," said Onyonka.

The senator reads foul play in the move to stop salaries of the affected staff and has described it as irrational.

"The named officers have not been given a chance to respond to the said allegations nor have they been served with their respective show cause letters," Onyonka said.

Kisii County employees sort out their academic credentials before submitting them to an audit firm during a staff headcount at Kisii Agricultural Training Center on November 18, 2022. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

On September 22, 2023, County Secretary James Ntabo wrote to the County Human Resources department, directing the office to stop salary payments to the affected staff.

Ntabo, in his letter, said the affected staff didn't turn up for the November 2022 staff headcount.

However, most of the affected staff claim they attended the exercise and have been reporting to their workstations as required.

They insist they have not received show cause letters despite the County Secretary indicating in his memo that the letters had been issued to the 740 officers.

"The affected staff have been issued with the show cause letters to explain why they should not be dismissed from the service in line with section 44 (a) of the Employment Act, 2013," reads part of Ntabo's letter.

In the Health Department, 397 staff have been affected, including consultants, medical doctors, clinical officers and other non-medical staff.

Also affected are 78 workers in the Department of Education, 55 from the Agriculture Department, 58 from the Administration, and 10 from the Executive, among others.

According to the devolved unit, those affected will not receive their October salaries.

Also affected are more than 50 staff who either resigned, those whose contracts expired, the deceased and those who transferred their services to other counties.

Governor Arati in his response on Wednesday evening, said that the affected staff will have to appeal the decisions by the County Secretary.

“They will appear before their respective Chief Officers or the County Secretary. The reason to stop their salaries is that they didn’t turn out for staff headcount,” Arati said.

A statement by the Governor’s Press Department said that depending on the response to show cause letters, action, including stoppage of salary, will be taken after the lapse of 21 days.

Kenya National Union of Nurses Kisii Branch Secretary General Moses Rianga said in a statement to the union members that the list had anomalies.