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Suspected ghost workers siphon ZW$2.5bn from govt

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THE government could be financing ghost workers prejudicing the state as the authorities have failed to account for payments amounting to ZW$2.5 billion, it has emerged.

MOSES MATENGA

A red flag has been raised amid suspicion the government could be paying for workers who are not in their employ and losing taxpayers’ money in a manner reminiscence of the days of the late former president Robert Mugabe when the Zanu PF militia was paid using government resources. 

According to Auditor-General Mildred Chiri in her report for the financial year ended 31 December 2020 on Appropriation Accounts, Finance and Revenue Statements and Fund Accounts, there was a variance in wage bill between figures presented by the Public Service Commission and the Salary Service Bureau.

“Total employment costs paid by the Salary Service Bureau (SSB) were 9% of what the commission paid, which was 91%,” the report read in part.

“The total employment costs reported by the commission amounted to ZW$2 732 262 069, which did not agree with the total on the SSB payroll printout figure of ZW$221 446 282, resulting in an unreconciled variance of ZW$2 510 815 787 for the same period.”

“As a result, I could not confirm the accuracy of the expenditure on compensation of employees costs disclosed in the financial statements,” Chiri’s report added.

Chiri said the government was therefore paying people who are not its employees.

“On risks and implications, it may be difficult to state with certainty the exact employment costs incurred by the ministry during the financial year under review. Also without reconciliations, it may be difficult to confirm whether bonafide employees were paid,” she said in her report.

“The commission should engage the SSB in order to reconcile the variance of ZW$2 510 815 787 between its accounting records and records maintained by the SSB,” the report further stated.

However, the management claimed the variance was as a result of the Covid-19 allowances paid in foreign currency for the months of June, July and August 2020 and were captured in SAP using the exchange rates prevailing at the time.

“The other difference was in respect of payments for employer obligations like the Public Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) and National Social Security Authority (Nssa). The reconciliation schedule is available for inspection,” the management said.

But in its evaluation of the management response, the Auditor-General showed further dissatisfaction and insisted that there was a need to back the claims with proof.

“There is still need for the management to furnish audit with supporting documents of other related employment costs. There is need to have all costs processed through the SSB to ensure completeness and effective control as the figure at SSB is only 9% of what the commission paid, which is 91%,” Chiri added.

On monthly pay sheets, it emerged that the PSC did not sign and acquit monthly pay sheets as evidence that the people paid were bonafide employees.

“The PSC human resources procedure manual paragraph 6.1.6 requires certification that members on the pay sheet were bonafide employees during the month shown and that the members were appropriately remunerated,” Chiri added.

“The signed copy of the acquittal pay sheet should then be filed. Erroneous and inappropriate remunerations may be made if checks and balances are not performed monthly.”

Zimbabwe has previously faced challenges of the regime paying ghost workers, most of them who turned out to be youths sympathetic to the ruling Zanu PF and were being paid for unspecified tasks.

In 2020, over 10 000 ghost workers were removed from the government payroll in Zimbabwe after a registration project that was run with the assistance of the World Bank.

It then emerged that more than 90% of state revenue was being used to pay wages over recent years.

It also emerged that some of the workers who continued being paid were either deceased or out of employment and this was due to bureaucratic errors or corruption.

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