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Opinions of Thursday, 16 June 2005

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

How To Win The Ghost Names? War On Government Pay-Roll

One problem that government after government in this country has to grapple with is those who are not working but have their names on the government pay-roll. This is what we call in our Ghanaian parlance ?ghost names.?

There are those who are dead and instead of their relatives writing to the appropriate government department to delete their names from the payroll they come to an agreement with the director at that level and share the money with them or the head of department. There are people who have stopped working for the state a long time ago and yet every month they go and take their monthly salaries from banks. This practice in Ghana is as old as the earliest history books and contemporary as the morning newspapers.

The state is hemorrhaging billions of cedis every month through this illegal practice. This is a WHITE COLLAR CRIME AT ITS PEAK. People have taken refuge in our weak pay-roll system and are making hundreds of millions of cedis monthly at the expense of tax-payers. One thing that we must note is that it is the big people in Accra, in the regional capitals and in the district offices who input such names into the roll. And on every month ending they arrange with the bank managers to withdraw the money. Is this the way we build a nation?

Ghost names exist in all government institutions. But the institutions that have come to light are the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and the Ghana Education Service (G.E.S). As a teacher who worked with the G.E.S I can say without any hesitation that the G.E.S payroll is littered with ghost names. The reason is that most people who leave the service arrange with their headmasters and circuit supervisors and every month they go and take the money and share it. The former Minister of Finance Mr. Osafo Marfo tried cleaning the roll yet the roll is still not clean. The reason is that the people who are inputting ghost names into the roll are still in the system.

The head count exercises that are done to check and detect ghost names from the roll have not been effective. The reason is that anytime there is going to be a head count the event is so publicized that someone who has vacated his post for more than a year finds himself counted again. The purpose is always defeated in this case. Even the officers who inputted such names can allow people to impersonate the ghost people.

As somebody who worked with the G.E.S and came across the modus operandi of such syndicates I think a more complex and multi-faceted approach is needed to deal with this canker. We are told that a huge chunk of the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education and for that matter the G.E.S is used to pay salaries and emoluments. So it?s easy to figure out how much some people are enriching themselves through this repugnant act.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE? Prevention has always been better than cure and it is still true today.

The first thing is that since it takes a long time for one to get his or her name deleted from the payroll when he/she stops working it is proper that every quarter every government employee must fill a SALARY CLEARANCE AND ACTIVATION FORM. This should be signed by his/her head of department indicating that that person is still at post before he can continue to receive his/her salaries. Another person of high reputation knowing the employer must also witness the form. Such persons could be lawyers, doctors, pharmacist, police inspectors and the like. When the employee completes this form he/she must take it to the bank and it must be filled before he/she can continue receive his/her salaries. So in the near future if it is found out that the person was not working but managed to get his/her salaries activated then we can prosecute the head of department, the employee and the witness. The form must clearly indicate the legal consequences of participating in this illegal practice. This will put fear into them. Deadline must be given to banks that if after 60 days inside a new quarter an employee has not submitted a salary clearance activation form then it should be assumed that the person has stopped working. Such details must be sent to the Controller and Accountant?s Generals Department for onward deletion of the name from the payroll. Any bank manager that flouts this provision should be penalized by the Bank of Ghana. This is also a checks and balances.

Secondly, syndicates involved in ghost names transactions sometimes involve heads of departments and directors. Therefore, allowing them to supervise any head count exercise will be counter productive. The exercise of nationwide head counts should be awarded to a reputable audit firm. Such private firms must be given a legal frame work in which to operate.

Thirdly, government must place before parliament a proposed bill called an ANTI-GHOST NAME BILL. The bill must criminalize the act of inputting, collecting or conspiring with anybody to draw a salary from the consolidated fund once you are not working. Jail terms and fines should be clearly and unambiguously stated so as to fast-track the trial process of offenders. The bill must incorporate the first and second methods elaborated above.

Finally, now that information technology is readily available we must make use of a wide area network (WAN) at the various districts and regional capitals which will be connected to the Controller and Accountant General?s server in Accra. The purpose is to allow the WAN to delete names from the roll of those who have stopped working as s/he stops working. If necessary an employee?s salary can be embargoed at the bank. The question is does this money get paid back to the government chest?

I implore The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Auditor General, Accountant General and Bank of Ghana to act so that we can save tax-payers money. If we fail to implement this a future historian will say that ministers of state and director generals lacked the will and commitment to implement good measures that will rid the payroll from ghost names.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is a freelance writer, anti-corruption exert and a student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He works with an NGO called ?LEADERS OF TOMORROW FOUNDATION. He can be contacted on Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi-Ghana. Tel 027-740-2467

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