Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso has defended her decision to introduce tough recruitment policy for staff, arguing it has saved the local administration millions of shillings.
In her interview with the Nation to mark a year in office, Dr Laboso who is one of the three female governors in Kenya, said her predecessor’s regime failed to weed out ghost workers.
“We did not find any structures relating to employment of staff and procurement of goods and services. We are still trying to sort out the issues,” Ms Laboso said in an interview with the Nation and NTV team.
“The first thing we did was conduct a staff audit which revealed that the county was overstaffed and the employees were performing duties which did not match with their skills.”
Ms Laboso, until last year the deputy speaker in the National Assembly, beat her rival Isaac Ruto to clinch the Bomet County governor’s seat.
But Ms Laboso said the excitement of victory was quickly replaced with reality of things she needed to do.
First, county figures indicated the administration was paying Sh249 million monthly in salaries. With low local revenues, it meant they were to depend almost entirely on the National Treasury.
The first decision was to fire certain casual workers and those whose contracts had been issued under unclear terms.
Within the first four months, 3,500 employees had been sent home after an audit found they were not hired by the Bomet County Public Service Board. They fought back.
“We were slapped with a litany of cases in the High court when we did not renew staff contracts, but we have weathered the storm on that front and we are now recruiting through the public service board as required by law,” Ms Laboso said.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court agreed with her decision but the workers appealed and the case is still pending.
Another group of contracted workers won a case in court against her administration that was forced to pay them Sh34 million in salary arrears.
Despite these setbacks, the governor said the county has trimmed Sh74 million from the initial Sh249 million monthly wage bill.
Ms Laboso said she was annoyed to learn she had inherited the misdeeds of her predecessors as well, such as having to answer to the Senate audit queries from 2016.
The governor said that despite the many challenges she has encountered and that have delayed implementation of her manifesto, she has not lost focus of her agenda.
“I was elected on the platform of change and I wish to assure the residents of Bomet County that indeed, the change I promised will be delivered. We are on course to fully implement our development agenda,” said Laboso said.
“In my manifesto, I identified key areas as health, provision of water, education and infrastructural development and we have since realigned with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s four development pillars – housing, health, agriculture and industry,” Ms Laboso said.
The governor said her administration has built 404 kilometres of roads, with hundreds more scheduled to be rolled out this financial year.
“We have rolled out a programme in partnership with various development partners and government agencies including World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) to plant 2.4 million trees before the end of this year,” she said.
The environmental conservation programme includes protection of rivers and streams and rehabilitation of forests alongside providing tree seedlings to learning institutions and farmers.
She said that her administration has partnered with the World Bank, World Vision and Usaid to help farmers improve their yields and have deployed veterinary and livestock specialists at the ward level to educate locals on modern farming techniques.
A subsidised artificial insemination (AI) programme has also been rolled out with the county working closely with New Kenya Cooperative Creameries and other processors to increase milk production.
The governor added that 53,000 tissue culture banana seedlings have been issued to farmers on a subsidised rate.
“Under the subsidy program, the county has distributed 14,000 mango fruit seedlings, 100,000 grafted Hass avocado seedlings in our bid to improve food security and livelihoods of the people,” said Ms Laboso.
The county, she said, has built 79 new Early Childhood Education Development centres and equipped them with desks, tables and books.
In the health sector, the county recently recruited 344 medical staff of various cadres to work in its 134 facilities.