County governments reveals massive wastage on ghost workers at the county offices. The problem of ghost workers on payroll is a pandemic for many counties in this nation. Billions of tax payer money is pumped out annually from the government to pay non-existent employees who have been fraudulently placed on the payroll systems of most of these county governments.

The county ghost worker is one who is listed in the payroll system but does not work for the county government and that who most often steals from that government. Ghost workers on payroll may be a real person who, knowingly or not, is put on a payroll, or a fictional person invented by a fraudster. This goes to the extent of the underage, overage, backdated jobs, inherited employment, illegal staff, even though they report to work on a regular basis; are classified as part of ghost workers and payroll fraud in public sector. In most cases, these dishonest public officers fake the requisite paperwork and authorizations to add a worker to the payroll.

McCallum and Tyler [2011] argued that apart from conventional ghost workers who are fictional and non- existent ghost workers who have been attached to payroll managers, there are also non-apparent ghost workers.

These types are actual public sector employees who earn fake compensations by pay irregularities. They include employees who receive unpaid wages by false means; for example, employees who have several jobs in the civil service, receive dual, or multiple salaries using pseudo-names, workers who earn higher pay or benefits than their level, workers on temporary absence or leave of absence but continue to earn full pay, and workers on transition or retirement.

The Ghost workers syndrome is not limited to payroll but also to pension payroll, as many of the ghost workers mentioned above naturally graduate to the pension scheme, while others are added to the pension payroll by managers. Ghost jobs are a massive drain to the county finances as hundreds of billions of shillings are spent paying salaries and pension entitlements to the non-existent workers and in many instances, to people who have no excuses to receive those wages other than the fact that they knew someone who could easily add their names to the payroll.

Common examples are witnessed in Vihiga, Kericho, Laikipia, Nyamira, Siaya, Lamu among others; Ghost workers in Vihiga County were earning Sh32 million every month based on an audit report of the human resources department. A report by the Vihiga County Public Service Board (CPSB) showed about 426 employees could not be traced at their duty stations during the audit.

While in Kericho County, Auditor General Nancy Gathungu flagged the possibility of ghost workers citing to the fact that 1955 employees have not been allocated personal numbers and were being paid outside the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Database. The auditor noted that lack of personal numbers may lead to loss of funds through ghost workers.

A similar case occurred in the county government of Lamu where a probe showed the presence of at least 112 ghost workers being on the county’s payroll for years. The third Human Resource Audit Report of 2022 that targeted over 100 work stations and 1,693 county personnel revealed that suspicious 112 names could not be accounted for yet were earning salaries and other benefits from the county government.

In Nyamira County, the county leadership was put under task to explain how the devolved unit lost Sh2.8 billion in salaries allegedly paid to ghost workers in the financial year 2018/2019. The county Governor was put to task to explain the existence of the 736 employees as he appeared before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee.

In Laikipia County, the county boss fired 176 workers over what was termed as a reduction of costs. The county top leadership risked being jailed for failing to comply with the Public Finance Management Act 2012 which stipulates a wage bill ceiling of 35%. Before the retrenchment the county’s wage bill stood at 58%

From the above case scenarios, it is evident that county governments ought to be at the forefront in fighting this menace of ghost workers who eat into the wage bill of counties. Theses loopholes have a negative impact on the economic performance of counties.

Under result area 5 of the PFM strategy; Increased value for money, performance and accountability in staffing for service delivery, we can achieve this by entrenching uniform norms and standards for effective performance and higher productivity of public servants. The issue of ghost workers can be exhaustively reformed by ensuring the whole public sector human resource information systems are consolidated, consistent, and up to date, and salaries paid through integrated systems with effective payroll controls.