Investigations carried out by the ministry of education last year revealed the existence of ghost teachers in the //Kharas region, resulting in payments of nearly N$500 000 during that period.
Education minister Anna Nghipondoka last week said a payroll-related investigation at the //Kharas Regional Council’s education directorate revealed the contentious and unsubstantiated payments to the value of N$469 505.69. In this particular case, Nghipondoka said three staff members and literacy promoters were implicated. “The preliminary internal investigations were recently finalised while police investigations are ongoing. Three suspects have thus far appeared in court in this regard,” she noted.
Nghipondoka was responding in the National Assembly to questions posed by United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Apius Auchab in relation to allegations on the possible existence of ghost teachers or employees on the payroll of the education ministry.
The country has, for years, grappled with the issue of ghost teachers.
According to Nghipondoka, the ministry also carried out a payroll verification and headcount audit on the payroll of the Kunene Regional Council, which was initially solely based on the definition of a ghost employee as a fictitious person invented by a dishonest staff member.
The audit was conducted from 20-30 November 2017 to ensure all staff members receiving a monthly salary are actually accounted for and are providing a service by being physically present at their respective duty stations.
The audit was also carried out to eliminate possible causes of over expenditure on personnel wages.
The modus operandi of the audit was that all staff members appearing on the October 2017 pay sheet were requested to provide an identification document to the audit team to verify their true identity.
“The findings of the investigation revealed that there were major payroll administrative shortcomings at the directorate, such as the delayed appointments, exemption and transferring of staff members from the payroll. However, the allegation about the existence of ghost teachers on the Kunene education directorate’s payroll was not determined,” Nghipondoka maintained.
Equally, no ghost teachers were discovered in the rest of the directorates.
As for the identified shortcomings, she reported the directorate has put in place strategies to mitigate these challenges and the effectiveness of these controls are continuously evaluated on an annual basis through the conducting of monthly pay sheet reconciliations and the ministry’s annual payroll verification exercise.
The investigating team was made up of accountants and human resource practitioners from the Oshikoto Regional Council with logistical assistance from staff members from the same department.
At the time, the ministry approached treasury for financial assistance to embark upon a nationwide payroll verification exercise, aimed at improving payroll administration as well as identifying any anomaly on the ministry’s payroll.
The verification process has now become an annual activity of the ministry and annual budgetary provisions are made in this regard.
“As indicated earlier, the investigation did not reveal the existence of ghost teachers on the payroll of the Kunene Regional Council – directorate of education, arts and culture; however various payroll administrative challenges were detected and the ministry is continuously addressing these shortcomings by compelling regional directorates of education, arts and culture to conduct monthly pay sheet reconciliations as well as undertaking the annual ministerial payroll verification process,” she explained.
In addition, the ministry further investigated reported cases of fraudulent payments effected on its payroll system.
In 2016, the ministry carried out parallel payroll-related investigations at Kavango East and West education directorates, which revealed that fictitious and unsubstantiated payments to the value of N$1 099 932.74, as well as an amount of N$2 356 573.75, respectively, were effected at these two directorates.
She briefed that a total of 23 staff members were implicated in the matter, and internal disciplinary measures have been finalised, while criminal-related proceedings are ongoing.
Also, in 2017, the ministry carried out a payroll-related investigation at the Zambezi education directorate, which revealed unsubstantiated payments to the value of N$9 434 407. 73 were affected.
This led to internal disciplinary measures against 23 staff members who were implicated.
The internal processes have since been finalised, while criminal-related proceedings are ongoing.