Kisii Governor Simba Arati is walking a tightrope in his efforts to clean an allegedly bloated payroll and huge pending bills while fulfilling his campaign pledges.
Even as the governor continues implementing changes to his workforce, his administration is battling claims of low morale among his workforce.
In his early days in office, the governor paraded staff at the Gusii Stadium, and before cameras, read the academic qualifications of some staff in some cases.
The move attracted criticism from some of the staff. Some staff have also reported attacks from allegedly hired goons.
But it appears the dust is yet to settle on Arati's attempt to undertake some changes in the running of the County after a section of leaders, including Senator Richard Onyonka and South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro, launched fresh criticisms over his leadership style.
The National Assembly Majority Chief Whip Osoro has severally accused the governor of engineering chaos in the County. “You cannot rule people with an iron fist and expect changes. The harassing of staff in the County is getting out of hand and we need a remedy.”
Senator Onyonka warned the county boss to go slow on his purge of Human Resources, arguing that some of the staff had lost the morale to work for the devolved unit.
“The Governor must learn to consult. It is not easy to sack civil servants, I have talked to him and will continue to do so, but if that fails, we will call on the clergy to pray for him. Let him focus on delivering the campaign pledges we made and not witch hunting.”
According to Onyonka, he can sit and have a conversation with the Governor. “Arati should stop fighting locals in Kisii town and reduce the unnecessary political heat in the area. Kisii needs someone who respects others. He can come we sit and talk, but that will not mean I stop my oversight role.”
“He must listen to the great men and women from this region. Some of us can offer him free political lessons on how to manage the great county of Kisii. These people do not need unnecessary pressure. I told our people to vote for him, and I have nothing to lose when fighting for our people.”
While appearing before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee to respond to queries touching on Human Resources since 2013, Arati said he is in the process of cleaning up the mess that is the County Payroll.
Committee Chair Moses Kajwang said: “Is Arati doing the wrong thing or doing the right in the wrong way.” Now I am beginning to think that you are doing the wrong thing in its entirety. But when we get to the end of this report, we could have formed our impression on that.”
Senator Onyonka wants to know the plans the governor has for more than 800 ECDE teachers whose contract is to expire at the end of this month.
Already, a petition has been filed in court to compel the governor to pay salaries to more than 250 staff who were employed months before the last general elections. They include Tutors deployed to various vocational training centres.
The governor is also in a stalemate with the County Public Service Board, who have since moved to court over their recent removal from office.
Governor Arati is also facing criticism on how he is handling the issue of the pending bills. He had put in place a task force to audit the alleged pending bills amounting to almost Sh 1.2 billion.
After the alleged audit, the Governor said he was to pay Sh 235 million as cleared by the taskforce.
The Governor, despite resistance from several contractors who had undertaken development projects in the County, proceeded through a Supplementary budget and set aside Sh 235 million to clear the pending bills that he felt deserved payment.
Despite the criticism, the Governor insists he is ready to move the County to greater heights. "There are those who are against the progress we are making. No angel will we drop down to come and clean the mess we have. We have to undergo some pain to achieve our objectives."