The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) may have paid Ksh. 18.5 million to ghost workers for the 2019 census.
KNBS officials told the parliamentary Public Investments Committee (PIC) that they did not have signatures for staff it paid the money to. The Director General, George Obudho, said that elders who were paid (in cash) never signed anywhere for the money. The money was intended to help in facilitating the mapping of areas ahead of the census.
This has led members of parliament to cast doubts on the entire process.
The lawmakers say the irregular spending is evidence that the elders might have misled KNBS and the bureau relied on wrong statistics to arrive at the final report.
No evidence of payment
KNBS has now been given a week to present a list of its staff who were responsible for paying the elders. Parliament wants to recover the money from them, claiming there isn’t any evidence they paid out the money.
Village elders from 47 counties were engaged by KNBS to help in cartographic mapping during the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census. According to KNBS, it paid Ksh. 18,509,600 to the elders for this exercise.
But the Auditor General, Nancy Gathungu, said there were no records of the payout as claimed by the bureau. Her 2018/19 report indicates KNBS does not have an official list of the village elders who took part in the mapping. There are no names or phone numbers.
Other details including identification number, division, location, sub-location and the village the elders represented are also missing from KNBS records.
“It was also noted that the attached payment schedules included names and signatures that could not be validated in any way. Similarly, there was no evidence of attendance for the three days they were indicated as paid for. Consequently, the accuracy, completeness and validity of the Sh18,509,600 payment could not be confirmed,” the Auditor General report read.
Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ said it was clear the money was paid to ghost workers.
Mapping may have been done by volunteers, not elders
“We are able to see through these things. Are the people who were paid alive or dead, did KNBS pay real workers or ghost workers?” Kajwang’ asked.
He said that KNBS officials who were given the money to pay the elders needed to pay it back.
His Wajir North counterpart who is also the vice-chairperson of the committee, Ibrahim Abdisalan, reiterated his sentiments.
“In the event that we are not satisfied that those monies were paid to the elders, this committee will recommend recovery of the money from the staff,” Abdisalan said.
Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire claimed that the mapping may have been done by volunteers despite the spending.
“Now I see why village elders are always complaining that they don’t get money meant for them. Maybe we will be surprised to find out that the work by village elders was even done by volunteers, yet Sh18 million was spent,” he said.
KNBS to shoulder blame
Kinangop MP Kwenya Thuku said it was negligent of KNBS to pay out Ksh. 18.5 million without recording any evidence of payment. He said that the country has robusts systems of payment which include M-Pesa.
“You cannot come and tell us that you entrusted your staff with Sh18.5 million to just dish out money without evidence,” Thuku said.
But the Director General claimed that area chiefs and their assistants were present when the payments were being made. He however added that the bureau will shoulder the blame if “there is something wrong with the payment.”
Besides the elders, KNBS also hired about 189,000 personnel for the 2019 census in various capacities including ICT supervisors, content supervisors, and enumerators.