Weed out ‘ghosts’ from government payroll

The recent report on ‘ghost’ teachers earning Shs7 million a month is a big blow in the fight against graft.

A Sunday Monitor report detailed how the government has been paying some primary school teachers, including ‘ghosts’, at least Shs7 million every month. Some of the ‘ghosts’ have been paid salary aances of up to April 2018.
Police picked interest in the matter after one of the beneficiaries in Mitooma District became overjoyed by the unexpected monthly cash inflows to his bank account, and took to regular buying of crates of beer in the area.

According to police investigations, taxpayers have lost Shs75 billion, which has so far been paid out under the inflated payrolls.
The challenge of ‘ghosts’ in public service payrolls is a long-running problem and raises questions about government’s commitment in the fight against graft.

A few months ago, the Ministry of Finance, launched an investigation into ‘ghost’ teachers and pupils in schools, and the preliminary findings discovered that about Shs30 billion is swindled each year through ghosts.

The report pointed to officials from the ministries of Education, Public Service and Local Government as the main architects in a scam in which about Shs2.3 billion is stolen every month.

On average, a primary school teacher earns Shs320,000 a month, and a secondary school teacher, Shs500,000. The money being stolen each month is enough to pay 5,000 secondary school teachers and 8,000 primary teachers.

It is public knowledge that some unscrupulous government technocrats have amassed wealth by creating ghosts.

Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to the Treasury, also Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, recently testified to this while launching the fourth annual report on tracking corruption trends in Uganda. Mr Muhakanizi also apologised to Ugandans.

On June 13, President Museveni also issued a terse message on ghosts: “I will not tolerate any further financial waste and the issue of ghosts must stop immediately.”

While apologies and warnings show the government recognises the problem, it does not solve it unless concrete actions are taken. What the Finance ministry should do is clean up the payrolls and close the loopholes corrupt officials use to inflate the payroll.

In June, for instance, it was reported that the ministry had deleted more than 8,000 names from the civil service payroll to weed out ghosts.
This is a clear indication that with close supervision and monitoring of the payroll system, including regular upgrade of the records system and frequent inspections in schools, it is possible to rid civil service of ghosts.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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