The Laikipia County government has started the process of compensating more than 150 workers whose positions it declared redundant in January.
On Tuesday last week, the Employment and Labour Relations Court sitting in Nyeri gave the devolved unit the nod to carry on with the process, six-and-a-half months after declaring the redundancies.
County secretary Karanja Njora said declaring the positions redundant was part of the process of reforms being carried out in the civil service, which started three years ago to make it professional, effective and responsive to the needs of the citizens. “The process is intended to optimise public benefit, enhance service delivery, professionalise public service and more importantly, ensure prudent use of public resources,” he said.
Laikipia, like many other county governments, has been struggling to strike a fiscal balance between money it is paying for wages and salaries and that which it was committing to development.
Last year, the Controller of Budget cautioned the county to cut down its ballooning payroll to be in compliance with the Public Finance Management Act 2012 and its regulations after its spending on the payroll hit 58.8 per cent of budget.
The Act caps wage bill at 35 per cent and development at least 30 per cent. From the onset of devolution, Laikipia was way off this mark.
For instance, in 2013/2014, the wage bill stood at Sh1.425 billion while its total revenue, from both the national equitable share and own source, was Sh3.02 billion, reflecting a 47.1 per cent wage bill to the total revenue.
By 2018/2019, the wage bill stood at Sh2.7 billion against Sh4.9 billion in revenue. This was a 56.7 per cent of the total revenue.
Efforts to tame the wage bill started in earnest early last year when the County Assembly approved the County Fiscal Strategy Paper 2019/2020, which required the Executive to take measures to reduce the percentage ratio of the wages to the budget to comply with the law.
This was followed by a comprehensive staff audit last year. County public service board chairperson Ms Mumbi Mwago said the audit revealed that there were 3,179 staff members under various employment terms.
“A significant finding of the audit is that some employees are not optimally engaged. The county government has resolved to declare redundancy of the employees who are not optimally engaged,” she said in February.
The County Government Workers Union went to the Labour court seeking to overturn the decision but last Tuesday, Justice Nzioki wa Makau paved the way for the process after ruling in favour of the county government.
Mr Njora said the positions declared redundant were mainly those rendered obsolete by technology.