How crooked civil servants stole billions from the Treasury

Friday January 24 2014

PSC chairperson Margaret Kobia has resigned from Sameer Africa  board. FILE

PSC chairperson Margaret Kobia. She said the auditors would be outsourced and the culprits held to account. PHOTO/FILE 

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The tricks rogue civil servants use to defraud Kenyans can be revealed today.

They have been substituting names of dead or retired employees with those of their cronies, creating a bloated service that has been costing tax payers Sh1.8 billion annually.

The complicated system where numbers of public servants are retained long after they ceased working in the public sector has been blamed on employees in charge of the payroll and those in the finance departments of Government institutions.

The administrators have been cashing in on loopholes in the public service structure and an outdated IT system that has not kept pace with developments in modern finance to ensure theft of public money goes undetected.

Identify the culprits

Prof Margaret Kobia, the chairman of the Public Service Commission, which is responsible for recruiting civil servants, said that an audit ordered by President Kenyatta on Thursday would identify the culprits and have them punished.

Issues blamed for the increase in the number of ghost workers include changing of names of employees who have left or died in the payroll system and failure to update payrolls after a worker dies, retires, goes on secondment or takes leave.

Procedure demands that the names of officers who have left the service for any reason be deleted immediately.

The full scale of the rot in the civil service emerged when the government started transferring the public sector payroll to the counties. Governors discovered that in some instances, they had less than half the staff they were being asked to pay.

In Nairobi for example, the county government discovered that there were only about 2,000 workers in the health sector although they had been given a figure of 4,300.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday said the government was losing up to Sh1.8 billion annually to ghost workers and ordered an immediate audit into the scandal.

Prof Kobia Friday said the auditors would be outsourced and the culprits held to account.

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Ann Waiguru last year said the large number of ghost workers in the country could be one of the reasons doctors, especially those on the payroll illegally went on strike to resist being deployed to the counties.

“We sampled eight ministries and we found out that more than 15 per cent of workers there were non-existent,” she told journalists during the strike by medics in the health sector.

Kisii governor James Ongwae said yesterday that he oversaw the reduction of civil service employees by 84,000 during his tenure as the Director of Personnel Management.

But he said he could not explain how deep the issue of ghost workers is in the civil service since he left in 2002.

“Since I left, five permanent secretaries have been in treasury, I do not know the structures that were put in place thereafter, but I did my part during my tenure,” he said.

Prof Kobia said they were working on finding out who was responsible for the problem and identify the categories of ghost workers.

Meanwhile local and international audit firms operating in Kenya are eyeing the government contract to clean up the public service . Among the top candidates for the job are PWC Kenya, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG Kenya, Alexander Forbes and PKF Kenya among others.

“We have a very big focus on working with the government in Kenya and right across Africa. In Kenya particularly, we are looking for opportunities in the counties and the national government where we can improve governance by establishing proper systems and sweeping out duplication and wastage of resources,” Mr Suresh Kana, Africa Senior Partner, PWC, said during the launch of PWC Office Kenya, which was presided over by President Kenyatta on Thursday.