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County officials count regrets for leaving plum jobs



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An increasing number of people who left stable jobs in the private sector and the government to work for governors are regretting the decision.

While some of them have been dismissed, a majority of the cases by word of mouth, the loophole in law, especially for such appointees means most do not get their dues.

It has also turned out that counties where governors failed to defend their seats have recorded the highest number of resignations and dismissals in the past year.

Most of the dismissals are arbitrary as new county bosses weed out any cases of staff “spying” for their former employers.

A former county government staffer who was relieved of his duties in June has likened working for governors to the instability of menial jobs where one is paid daily and there is no contract on the terms of engagement.

“You go home having the job and wake up jobless on the most flimsy of excuses. I lost my job because the governor’s wife did not like me,” he said.

Most of those we met spoke off the record since they are still pursuing their cases in court.

Isiolo Finance executive Mwenda Thiribi resigned in October blaming Governor Mohamed Kuti for “not protecting me”.

Chief of Staff and Mr Kuti’s right hand man Bitacha Sora refused to comment on the matter.

Immediately after the 2013 General Election — the first after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution — there was a mad rush by professionals from the government and private firms for positions in the devolved units.

Governors went on a recruitment spree, mostly rewarding their political cronies.

Migori and Busia have had cases of employees being dismissed on claims of giving information to police that could implicate some of their seniors.

Constant competition for attention of governors and the cut-throat push to outdo one another characterised by backstabbing have seen many people dismissed by county bosses without counter-checking the information they are fed.

Under normal circumstances, the process of dismissing a public officer is long and the worker is usually given an opportunity to defend himself.

Nairobi County under Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko has witnessed one of the highest staff turnovers in the country’s history.

“If we find you stealing, we take you home. I have done a serious clean-up in the cash office where guys were used to stealing money in sacks every evening.

“There are many professionals I tapped from the private sector like (Lands and Housing executive) Charles Kerich and (Director of the Governor Press Service) Elkana Jakob and I’m impressed with their performance,” Mr Sonko said.

Mr Kerich is a former editor of the Star newspaper.

In August, Governor Sonko suspended Health executive Hitam Majevda and County Health director Thomas Ogaro on claims of laxity.

Mr Sonko also cited hidden charges mothers incurred during maternity and mismanagement in a number of hospitals.

Earlier in the year, he dismissed Mr Benson Mulwa, his personal assistant.

Junior employees, personal aides and executives alike have been fired hardly before settling in office.

Mr Sonko said those who working well have no reason to fear. “I am not made to just wake up and fire you. It is your sins that send you packing,” he said.

Recently, Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia called on governors to follow the law when dealing with indiscipline.

“They must be given a hearing and in instances where they feel their rights are violated, they are free to lodge a complaint at the Public Service Commission. The Judiciary is another avenue of getting justice,” Prof Kobia said, warning that counties run the risk of paying high amounts in compensation, given the high number of cases filed in courts.

Governors alone have not been the problem.

Since their tenure is tied to that of the county boss, many workers have either been arrested by anti-corruption agencies or are being investigated for diverting resources they are in charge of.

“Since you are not assured of the job after five years — that is assuming you will not be sacked — one is tempted to accumulate as much wealth possible,” Mr Jerome Mwaka, a former employee of the Tharaka-Nithi devolved government told the Sunday Nation.

Turkana County boss and Council of Governors chairman Josephat Nanok defended his colleagues from the accusation of dismissing employees for sport.

“In many cases, the County Public Service Board has the final say on employment. No governor would want to fire anyone for the sake of it,” he said.

However, Mr Nanok was quick to point out that governors — like any other elected leaders — have pledges to fulfil and would not allow anyone to stand in their way.

“Employees who are performing their duty as they ought to have nothing to worry about,” Mr Nanok said.