President Hage Geingob’s hunt for ghost workers who are sucking government coffers has begun in earnest and ministries are working round the clock on a head counting exercise to meet deadlines.
Speaking to The Villager, an anonymous official from the agriculture ministry disclosed that a deadline of 11th of May has been put for them with the head-counting exercise having already commenced on the 7th of this month.
The official further said workers are being required to provide copies of their identification documents, failure of which would see them failing to get their salaries end of this month.
Statehouse press secretary, Dr. Alfredo Hengari confirmed the report saying that the exercise is being carried out in all the ministries.
“As you may recall, the president in his State of the Nation Address directed offices, ministries and agencies to follow the example of the ministry of education which has been able to detect ghost teachers and workers and as a result was able to save millions of Namibian dollars.”
“So that directive applies to all offices, ministries and agencies to make sure that audits are made and ghost workers, if at all there is, are eliminated from the government payroll. So it’s not particular to the ministry of agriculture. The president directed through the SONA and what is happening now is the process of engaging,” said Hengari.
He however could not confirm whether all ministers had been given the same deadline.
It is also not clear how much in dollars the president targets to save through ridding ministries of shadow workers.
“We can’t have a target without knowing how many ghost workers exist on the government system. It would be premature to have a target in the absence of any empirical data about the extent of the phenomenon,” he said.
But how does the ghost-worker phenomenon come by and why is it hard to nip out of the system?
“A government worker dies and remains on the payroll; a ghost worker in the most literal sense. Payments keep coming and someone finds a way to access the cash. Not very difficult in cash based payment systems, which still exist in many fragile countries. The payment agent simply takes the money. Perhaps a signature needs to be forged. Who is going to know?” says writer Ian Hawley.
Hawley goes on to say that the phenomenon may impact economic growth and certainly reduces the effectiveness of public spending as it is misdirected.
Geingob’s efforts to save the national purse comes two years later after his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari kicked off 50 000 ghost workers, saving 630 million Euros (N$942 million).
In the same year, President John Magufuli of Tanzania saved more than US$2 million by removing 10 000 parasitic workers.