A Senate oversight committee on Monday, May 22, cast a spotlight on Kisii Governor Simba Arati for his alleged failure to address conspicuous payroll discrepancies that have culminated in the county government wrestling with an exorbitant annual wage bill amounting to Sh5.7 billion.
The senators assailed the governor, accusing him of staging a cover-up of the corruption within the county’s HR department by orchestrating a new audit before taking action on a previously conducted one.
The matter gained momentum after the governor, during his appearance before the Senate County Public Accounts Committee, was unable to articulate the measures he has implemented to rectify the HR malfeasance, a dilemma persisting over eight months since his inauguration.
The purpose of the county head’s summon before the committee was to respond to a scathing audit report from the National Treasury. The report flagged numerous HR anomalies, including duplicate payroll numbers and bank accounts, manipulated birth dates, and identical identification numbers, among others.
Other concerns include double payments, instances of employees serving both the national and county governments, and shared birth dates.
The committee, chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’, expressed alarm over the county’s inflated wage bill that stands at Sh5.7 billion annually, equivalent to 58 percent of its revenue. The panel attributed this unsustainable financial burden to the county government compensating non-existent personnel.
Characterizing the corruption exposed by the National Treasury’s audit as payroll fraud, Senator Kajwang’ remarked that the county government is facing a profound HR crisis.
In a pointed remark, he asked, “Why are you squandering public funds on another audit when you acknowledge there is no problem in the county government? There is a severe problem in Kisii, and that’s why we are here.”
Senator Kajwang’ also questioned the governor’s contradictory stance: “You cannot deny there’s an issue on one hand while highlighting problems in your responses on the other,” he added.
Kisii Senator Richard Onyonka interrogated the governor about his failure to report the revelations of payroll fraud uncovered by the Treasury’s audit to investigative agencies. “You have done nothing since assuming office despite the glaring issues raised by the National Treasury report. Instead, you initiated a new audit,” Senator Onyonka charged.
Nominated Senator Mariam Sheikh Omar categorized the ongoing audit as a squandering of public funds, arguing that the issues under investigation had already been captured in the Treasury’s audit report.
Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo echoed this sentiment, questioning why the governor was downplaying the issues in the county government even after unveiling staff and vehicles post-inauguration and disclosing the existence of 1,200 ghost workers within the county government.
Governor Arati, cornered by the senators’ line of questioning, conceded to the existence of problems within the county government, citing the current audit as an attempt to address these issues.