PRESIDENT John Magufuli yesterday exposed the presence of 'ghost workers' in his own office, saying an ongoing nationwide search for fake civil servants has revealed that the problem of payroll fraud is prevalent in virtually every public office in the land.
"They (ghost workers) are everywhere ... even in the President's Office, the Prime Minister's Office, the armed forces ... everywhere," Magufuli said yesterday in a State House address.
The president said he had been obliged to sack the Shinyanga regional commissioner, Anne Kilango Malecela, and the region’s administrative secretary (RAS) after they failed to take action against the presence of 'ghost workers' in the region.
Kilango was dismissed less than a month after she was appointed to the position by Magufuli. The RC recently reported that Shinyanga region did not have a single 'ghost worker’, an assertion that prompted the president to dispatch his own team to verify the actual situation on the ground.
The order for a special verification exercise in the region was made while Magufuli was on holiday in his Chato, Geita region home village.
"Some 45 ghost workers were identified (in Shinyanga region) by last night, and the inspection is yet to be completed in two of the region’s districts, so this number may likely go up," he said, noting that the phantom workers in the region had already been paid a total of 339.9 million/- in salaries out of the government’s coffers.
According to the president, a total of 5,507 government ghost workers had been detected in the ongoing nationwide crackdown.
"Some 4,236 ghost workers have been identified in local government authorities. There are also more than 1,000 such workers at the central government level," he stated.
He noted that while the government spends 583 billion/- each month to pay civil service salaries, an estimated 54 billion/- of that amount is apparently being pinched in the name of phantom workers.
Kilango was sacked because “she allowed her subordinates to lie to her that there were zero ghost workers in her region, and she did not take any action against them after realising that she had been lied to," the president said.
The former parliamentarian, who was sworn in to the Shinyanga RC post by President Magufuli himself on March 15, will now be assigned other duties.
In a further indication of things to come, Magufuli said:
"The team that went to Shinyanga to conduct the surprise audit (of government workers) is led by a very courageous woman. I will send that team without notice to any ministry, local government authority or any public office."
"There are ghost workers in the health ministry, the ministry of finance, everywhere. Every government ministry has ghost workers."
He ordered the State House Chief Secretary, John Kijazi, to ensure that the special task force was provided with enough security and protection to allow them to carry out surprise inspections of government offices as and when directed to do so by the president himself.
Magufuli reiterated his regular caution that the culture of "business as usual" is unacceptable in his administration, further warning that public officials will continue to be taken to task if they fail to do their jobs.
"Tanzanians as a people are suffering while public funds are being squandered. The funds spent in paying ghost workers’ salaries could have been used to finance real development projects," he said.
"I expect all of us who have been entrusted with public leadership positions to take our responsibilities seriously because this country had reached a terrible state," he added.