FOR a long time now Government has been grappling with a high number of ghost workers on its payroll.
This has led to Government losing millions of Kwacha by paying workers who had left employment through either dismissal, retirement or death.
For instance, some workers who are no longer in the civil service have remained on the payroll for years, enjoying the usual benefits and even the annual salary increases.
The nation was recently treated to some shocking news when a teacher of Ndola was arrested for allegedly drawing her dead husband’s salary for seven years.
From 2010 to date, it is alleged that Jane Katongo, 40, has drawn over K280,000 as salary for her late husband, who was also a teacher.
Now, seven years is too long a period for someone to draw a salary from a dead person’s account without anyone noticing.
This indeed points to a porous payment management system in the civil service.
It also reveals the high level of inefficiency and incompetence by the men and women charged with the responsibility of manning the civil service payroll.
It is sad that while Government is working with limited resources to meet various needs in the country, including creating more jobs for millions of people languishing on the streets, huge sums of money are being lost by paying ghost workers.
Media reports in 2011 indicated that there were about 15,000 ghost workers out of the 120,000 workforce captured on the payroll.
In 2014 the secretary to the cabinet Dr Roland Msiska, is on record to have bemoaned the high numbers of ghost workers in the civil service.
Dr Msiska revealed that one health institution in Northern Province included 44 ghost workers on the payroll and a nutritionist to run a mortuary when such services were not necessary.
While we acknowledge that some of the ghost workers on the payroll are as a result of genuine errors in failing to clear workers from the system, some of the cases are a deliberate manipulation of the system by some corrupt public officers.
The case of the hospital in Northern Province which employed a nutritionist to run a mortuary is a typical example of intentions to manipulate the system for corrupt purposes.
Where on earth have nutritionists ever been employed to man bodies in a mortuary?
This is indeed absurd and a clear indication of high levels of greed and corruption among some public service officers.
While ghost workers are prevalent across all government ministries, it has been observed that the Ministry of Education is usually the most affected.
As a country that has a long way to go in its development journey, we cannot afford to continue losing colossal sums of money through ghost workers.
Government should consider decentralising the payroll to allow for effective monitoring and administration.
As things stand now, it is clear there are challenges in capturing changes that take place, especially in far-flung areas.
It is also our hope that as government works on implementing the electronic governance system, there will be enhanced efficiency and effectiveness in the management of governance processes and subsequently the problem of ghost workers will be dealt away with.
Above all, we expect those public officers charged with the responsibility of managing human resource and the payroll to do so diligently and professionally to prevent government from losing huge sums of money.
It is not only immoral but sabotage on the country’s development for anyone to maintain ghost workers on the payroll for personal gain.
This is because Government is made to pay huge sums of money for services which are never delivered robbing beneficiaries of those services.
It, therefore, increases government’s inefficiency in service delivery while spending more.
Needless to say, if any public officer is found perpetuating ghost workers, the law should take its course.
For now, Government needs an urgent and thorough audit of the civil service payroll to rid it of ghost workers.