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Biometrics urged for payroll fraud crusade in Africa’s public service systems

Biometrics urged for payroll fraud crusade in Africa’s public service systems

The phenomenon of public workers unduly earning salaries or other financial benefits from their national public service systems in some African countries remains a major preoccupation.

In the face of this disturbing situation which is causing even poor governments to lose cash which could have been redirected for other useful projects, institutions like the World Bank have been recommending the use of robust transparency, anti-corruption and accountability systems to counter the trend.

As such, the use of biometrics technology has been strongly recommended as one of the ways of effectively fighting such irregularities.

In the past, countries such as Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Nigeria have reported successful audits which revealed the existence of thousands of ghost workers in their public service payrolls thanks to the use of biometrics.

Given the gains that come with expunging such underserving earners from the public purse using precise technologies, a country like Morocco – where payroll fraud is said to be rife — has also been called upon to implement such anti-corruption systems in order to ensure stolen funds can be rechanneled to other social development sectors, per Morocco World News.

The portal describes payroll fraud in Morocco as a scourge that has eaten deep into the fabric of one of Africa’s most economically prosperous nations, citing different instances in which the country’s authorities, be it in the police or government ministries, have reported the existence of ghost workers.

Curiously, the fraud is sometimes perpetrated thanks to the complicity of senior officials who are paid commissions to cover up the actions of illegal earners, the author mentions.

With the use of fingerprints or iris biometrics systems, Morocco’s government will be able to provide a solid and reliable attendance platform which will keep track of who is regular at work and who is not, the article suggests.

Biometrics to catch ghost workers in Nigerian state sparks discord

In a related development to the South in Nigeria, there have been disagreements among officials and staff of some local government areas (LGAs) in the Nigerian state of Niger over a suggestion to deploy biometrics for the identification of ghost workers.

Daily Trust reports that the suggestion is from Jantabo, chairman of Lapai LGA, which is one of the 25 LGAs of the state.

This is said to have sparked divergence of views, with some of the LGA chairs backing out over fears of stepping on the toes of some powerful people who may be shielding the suspected ghost workers.

The LGAs are believed to be spending millions of Naira on underserving workers, which is why the idea of biometric data capture of all LGA staff at the main secretariat has been proposed.

Daily Trust mentions that the idea has also been triggered by the fact that workers in some of the LGAs stay away from work, and only hurry to their offices when salaries are on the verge of being paid.

Jantabo is quoted as saying, during a town hall with stakeholders, that the wage bill of his LGA is too high and that there are many fictitious names on the pension lists of many LGAs.

At the federal level however, the government is aware of the importance of an efficiently managed public service system to tackle payroll fraud and other corrupt practices.

It is with this understanding that the federal government partnered with the World Bank to train personnel from some select ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on the better management of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), according to Independent.

A representative of the head of civil service of the federation underlined the importance of the IPPIS which was a mechanism established to efficiently store and verify personal records of civil servants with the view to improving transparency and accountability.

The IPPIS system, created in 2007, uses technology including biometrics, to verify payments to more than one million civil servants in over 650 MDAs in Nigeria, according to its website.

Sanctions fall after Ghana’s biometric audit

There are reports in Ghana that some public sector workers had their salaries for the month of September 2022 suspended, apparently as a result of a recent biometric audit which found many mismatches among names on the public payroll.

In August, authorities reported about 148,000 public sector workers could not be biometrically identified after a massive audit.

According to News Ghana, the public workers whose salaries have been affected either have issues with mismatch of their names on the payroll, invalid bank accounts, or both.

The outlet quoted a notice from the office of the Controller and Accountant General that those concerned are called upon to show up at the Payroll Coordination Unit with some justification papers, including their Ghana Card – the biometric national ID.

Other documents include an appointment letter, a letter of current posting, pay slips for the previous three months, a blank check booklet from their bank, and a letter from the employing ministry, department or agency attesting to their effective presence at work.

Kenyan county to digitize health system with World Bank support

The Kenyan county of Taita Taveta will benefit from funding to the tune of Sh100 million (US$826,000) to modernize its healthcare system including managing the workforce information and payroll, according to Kenya News.

Officials, including the county governor, say the funding will go a long way in streamlining the healthcare system and ensure better delivery of services to citizens.

The technology is also expected to proffer solutions to the problem of ghost workers which has bedeviled the county health care system for years.

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