The January 24, 2015 editorial of the Ghanaian Times reveals that the Public Services Commission (PSC) has initiated an independent audit exercise to remove all ghosts on the public payroll. The PSC is reported to be deploying an army of officials to go to every district and region in Ghana to head count all Government workers. This boots on ground approach may be fine, but other things must be done as well beyond counting.
Over the last couple of weeks, the issue of ghost names on Ghana’s public payroll has attracted a lot of interest. Media reports indicate that the IMF will be looking into the payroll when next they are in town for a discussion on Ghana’s IMF Bailout Package. Ghana’s immediate past Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffour waded into the discussion expressing disbelief and shock as to why his deputy at the time and now Finance Minister Mr. Seth Tekper, disobeyed his professionally authorised directive to hand over the problematic 30% payroll under the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) command to the private firm, SoftTribe that had been contracted by the same government and Controller to handle the 70% of public payroll apparently effortlessly and with non-existent ghosts. Dr. Kwabena Duffour read copiously on radio letters written and approved by the current Controller and Accountant General and her deputies on the efficacy of SoftTribe’s systems.
Whilst the current Finance Minister has suggested the confusion between the Controller and Accountant General and vendors be solved at a Cabinet sub-committee level, many Ghanaians and civil society actors appear to disagree and want an open transparent public forum featuring all the actors, the Controller, The Finance Ministry, the vendors, consultants , professional IT persons the Media , Civil Society to explain how it came about that there are still Ghosts on our payroll almost a decade after millions of dollars of tax payer funds have been spent to clean the payroll.
Many Ghanaians would like to know from all vendors handling the payroll, 70% by SoftTribe and 30% by the Controller how their systems are either allowing Ghosts safe passage or are getting caught. All Ghanaians want to hear from all interested parties how the existing payroll process should allow a new set of guidelines to make it much more credible and foolproof. This will require CAGD and all its consultants as well as business process players work together to standardize the payroll system as per ISO standards.
The Controller and Accountant-General has maintained in all media interviews that it is NOT responsible for any faulty personnel data entry by Ministries, Departments and Agencies. However, the Financial Administration Act 2003 says otherwise; “(4) As Chief Accounting Officer, the Controller and Accountant General is the chief adviser to the Minister and the government on accountancy matters and is the person who approves accounting instructions of departments and promotes the development of efficient accounting systems within departments.”
The following suggestions would be important first steps for regaining confidence in payroll management.
1. The CAGD must be able to enforce its mandate in making sure that it is empowered to block all fictitious payments. It is apparent that the CAGD is weak in this regard probably because it wants to avoid clashes with Ministers, Departmental and Agency heads.
2. There must be whole rethinking of existing business processes of the CAGD to ensure that Controller verifies every single payment it makes since that is the only way there can be accountability.
3. The laxity by the Ministry of Finance to also provide a verification functionality or oversight on Controller’s could implicate them in abetting the losses.
4. We need a really strong action to be taken to ensure the sanctity of government payroll as dependence on insufficient SSNIT (social Security) records by CAGD as a control is not satisfactory as it still leaves loopholes.
5.All Ministries Departments and Agencies must be asked to sign legal consent forms as part of the pay run process to say to the best of their knowledge the pay run is correct before any payments are made?
6. We should introduce quarterly audits by a third party on the payroll records as part of the new process to stop new ‘cases’ from slipping.