Government’s zeal to eliminate ghost workers continues unabated, but officials within the system who are perpetuating the fraudulent act remains a challenge.
Ghost workers within government institutions have become the talk of the day through several media reports as well as on social media platforms.
The phenomenon is also one of the factors that have led to the meteoric rise of the public wage bill.
The Patriot this week sat down with the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Markus Kampungu, who shared some insights as to how government is addressing the situation.
“The situation with ghost workers is not just confined to Namibia. We find it elsewhere in the world and it happens because of loopholes within the system. In most of our cases we depend much on the manual system. When there is reliability on manual systems, people with bad intentions will actually look at it as an opportunity to make money by creating ghost workers,” said Kampungu.
“Yes. We have picked it up within the payroll system as we do regular audits within every ministry. The files of staff members are then audited and combined with the print out from finance to ensure that the date corresponds with the payment system. Through this audit system we were able to detect ghost workers and our findings and recommendations were then shared with parliament and several measures were enacted,” he said.
Kampungu urged ministries to conduct audits on their payroll and compare it with the actual data at hand.
He said the Office of the Prime Minister initiated the Human Technical Management system project that encourages automated inventory system for all Human resource management.
“Through the implementation of the new system there are expectations of improved actions that will be able to detect ghost workers. The audit recommendations were shared in 2013 according to Kampungu, but are still not implemented as recent reports of ghost workers still arise.
“It is an attempt to move away from the manual system which has many irregularities as the new system is more accurate. The system will be able to pick up errors and it enforces non-payment of salaries to individuals that are not registered. The salaries will be automatically stopped,” said the commissioner.
“The Ministry of Education also effected regional audits which helped to identify irregularities. We hope through this particular reform we will be able to minimise the situation with ghost workers. A number of ministries complied with the enforcement of the Human Technical management system but many others requested for an extension with reasonable justifications,” he said.
Kampungu fingered officials as the main perpetuators of the ‘ghost worker’ syndicate, adding that it mostly involves officials from the human resource and accounting departments.
In 2016 the Ministry of Education together with Treasury conducted a countrywide manual pay roll audit at all public schools. A year prior in 2015, PwC revealed that the Ministry of Education was remunirating 6000 ghost teachers monthly.
Kampungu said at times allegations of ghost workers are not always authentic, because employees who may be on special study leave can also be misinterpreted as ghost workers.
“Therefore proper reconciliation has to be actioned so that the perception can be eliminated. He further stated that officials should use diligence when investigating similar cases as it might only be slight errors due to the manual systems. The new system should be able to eliminate the errors. The systems need to be in place to specifically address this issue. The system will also categorise the staff members accordingly; those permanent, on study leave or the ones recruited on temporary basis to attend to duties which arises shortly,” Kampungu explained.
Kampungu was unable to establish how much money government has lost as a result of ghost workers although the Public Service Commission has conducted financial audits within government ministries.
“The issue of ghost workers is a concern for all Human resource management systems and when people raise these issues, it should be addressed consequently. We are still in the process of learning and monitoring and if we happen to identify the shortcoming we will close the loopholes,” Kampungu concluded.