Siaya county government workers were on Tuesday left dumbstruck when aged politicians trooped to the county headquarters to pick up their pay following a directive that employees present themselves personally to collect the wages.
Youthful employees, who had lined up at the office of the Chief Officer in charge of governance, could not believe their eyes when local Orange Democratic Movement officials, among them a former chairman of the defunct Bondo County Council, walked in and joined the queue to be vetted and take up their October 2019 salary cheques.
The County staff had been instructed in a memo signed by the county secretary, Joseph Ogutu, to fill a vetting form and attach their appointment letters, promotions and deployment and present themselves in person to pick the cheques.
In the afternoon, a former chairman of the Bondo town council, Akello Gwela surprised the staff and members of the public who were waiting to be served, when he walked in armed with a brown bag and requested to be allowed to jump the queue.
Gwela, aged more than 70 years, said that he could not bear to stand for long and pleaded with fellow workers to understand his predicament.
Attempts by the orderlies manning the customer care desk to have him fill in a form fell on deaf ears as he adamantly maintained that his issue will be handled inside the office.
“Just allow me in, and the rest will be done there,” he pleaded.
The bewildered workers, junior to him in age, gave in and allowed him to jump the queue.
He was to emerge minutes later grinning and thanking them for deferring to his age.
More surprises awaited the county staff as moments later, the ODM party chairman for Ugenya constituency, Darlington Mududa also walked in and demanded to be ushered in with the excuse that he hailed from a far-flung corner of the county and needed to be served urgently in view of the ongoing rains.
However, his plea fell on deaf ears as those in the queue protested that everyone will have to wait for their turn on the queue.
Other people who emerged to pick the salary cheques included a renowned contractor in Siaya town, Lilian Rege alias “Super” who was however told to go and fill a declaration form and have it signed by her supervisor.
County workers interviewed by the Kenya News Agency said Tuesday’s experience was just a tip of the iceberg as most ODM branch officials, political activists and idle youth have been sneaked into the payroll with the blessings of both the governor and senior party officials.
“Akello Gwela and most political activists across the county are designated as information officers,” said an employee who chose to remain anonymous owing to the sensitivity of the matter and lamented it was a pity that old men are earning what should be going to qualified but idle youth..
The workers said that the exercise meant to weed out ghost workers was just a public relations gimmick as the real “ghosts” are known to the authorities.
They called on the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and other independent investigative bodies to help crack the syndicate that has led to pilferage of public funds.
Last week, the Siaya County Secretary Joseph Ogutu sent out a memo to all chief officers and directors, directing each member of staff to present him or herself in person to pick the salary cheque.
Ogutu said in the memo that no salary will be wired to the banks, adding that the move was meant to weed out ghost workers who earn without working.
“This is a management strategy aimed at ensuring that salaries are only paid to genuine workers,” he said when contacted for comment.
He said that all county government workers, including Governor Cornel Rasanga, would be subjected to the process.