‘Ghost workers’ drive: Kudos for admitting errors,but be on your watch

Reports said that ghost workers removed had reached 19, 708 by January 31 this year thus saving close to Sh22bn in taxpayers’ money that would have been spent on fictitious salaries every month.

There is a feeling that there was a political element in the exercise, as those who planted the ghost workers in the first place were not tasked with that act of sabotage.

As top officials in various government ministries and agencies were seeking out fake employees, just one top official doubted the exercise, saying no such workers existed in her region, and was promptly sacked.

This exercise is also taking place against an employment freeze in the government is a huge blow to the country’s labour market, which may also be eased when the salary bill has diminished and it is possible to recruit again.

There are also fears that progressive professionalization of public sector functions led to huge salary bills, as senior government staff were being replaced by new staff from outside the civil service.

It was this tendency which led to salaries of well over 15m/- per month and according to President John Magufuli, some individuals were being paid up to 40m/-.

Such salaries aren’t public sector wage scales but arise from imitating corporate salary scales in order to draw personnel from major private firms like those in accountancy, information technology and others.

At one time Regional Administration and Local Governments minister George Simbachawene admitted that some people were wrongly listed as ghost workers, which means there were errors, but on the whole few ‘ghost workers’ came up to protest their being sidelined from the monthly paycheck.

Addressing the 9th Stakeholders Conference for the Local Authorities Provident Fund (LAPF) in Arusha on Friday, the minister blamed some record keepers in public offices for incompetence or for being overtaken by modern technologies thus failing to keep proper record when delisting non-existent workers from public employment.

A ghost employee is someone recorded on the payroll system but who does not work for the entity. The ghost can be a real person who knowingly or not is placed on the payroll, or a fictitious person invented by the dishonest employer.

In such circumstances, it is evident that the government will not pursue those who planted ghost workers for it would embarrass far too many of its own top officials and undermine cohesion in the ruling party.

That also means, despite the strict attitude of current authorities,, that we should not sit on our laurels and think that the problem has been eliminated. Fraudsters are like hyenas; they constantly prod into the object to see if it staunchly or violently resists.

When the political storm has died down, some names will start creeping into the system once again, and it will take another presidency for anyone to start wondering how many ‘ghost workers’ we have, once again.