The issue of ghost workers in the civil service has remained a contentious one, for which a conclusion continues to be elusive.
It is believed there are 75 000 ghost workers on the civil service payroll.
Cabinet is, for some strange reasons, blocking the release of the civil service audit. In fact, in our story on ghost workers published on Saturday, the Minister of Public Service , Lucia Matibenga, confirmed the report had been embargoed by Cabinet hence her refusal to discuss the issue.
However, what is shocking is that even the audit report itself is flawed as it is littered with errors.
On Saturday, we reported in this paper that serving employees in government institutions in Bulawayo had been listed as part of the 75 000 ghost workers.
Some of the affected civil servants include the much-needed doctors and nurses.
What this means is that there is a possibility the Salary Service Bureau might stop payment of salaries of these ”ghost workers” who are actually serving employees and cause untold suffering to the families of such people.
We are aware of the allegations that Zanu PF has stuffed the civil service payroll with names of some of their members who serve party functions but are not doing any government job.
This reportedly happened prior to the formation of the inclusive government when Zanu PF was virtually the only party in government and could have so many improper things without any challenge. We would obviously want such elements to be removed from the civil service payroll.
Government is reported to be spending $960 million per year on civil servants’ salaries, but Finance minister Tendai Biti says if the ghost workers were removed from the payroll, a saving of about $17,6 million could be made annually.
The money could go to critical areas such as procurement of drugs and other critical medical accessories that Zimbabwe’s hospitals need.
But the disturbing news about the flawed audit makes us counsel government to take time before it implements recommendations contained in that report otherwise it might spark a furore as serving employees might be prejudiced.
We hope though that the errors in the audit report are not the work of mischievous elements who deliberately supplied wrong information to the authorities just so that they could camouflage the irregularities in the civil service payroll so that the audit can be thrown out altogether.
A civil service audit is absolutely necessary, especially as it is meant to ensure savings in government expenditure.
It should not be abandoned, but the responsible authorities should go back to the drawing board and see what happened for the report to have such flaws and take corrective measures.
The phenomenon of ghost workers itself smacks of corruption and those behind such a scandal should be brought to book, instead of being allowed to get away with murder.