By Ntsebeng Motsoeli
MASERU — The Ministry of Public Service has begun an audit of the civil service to establish the exact number of workers in the public sector and verify if they tally with those listed on its bloated wage bill. The audit is also aimed at flushing out ghost workers, who are suspected of lumbering the public sector wage bill.
This paper has been told that the government is seeking to reconcile the number of civil servants with those on its actual pay roll and examine the legitimacy of all appointments in the public sector.
Public Service Minister, Motloheloa Phooko, confirmed in an interview that the head count had commenced last week “to verify civil servants’ identities, their number, where they are posted and what they are doing.”
Phooko said the count also hopes to find any illegitimate workers, how they entered into the pay roll and what they are doing.
“We have a suspicion that government does not have a correct number of its employees. We hope to have an idea of how many civil servants are there, where they are and what they are doing,” Phooko said.
He said the first ministries to undergo the count were those of education and training, local government and chieftainship and of health.
An official, who did not want to be named, said there has been serious concern in the coalition government that some public servants were claiming salaries for “ghost employees”.
“There are allegations that some people are getting more than one pay cheque. It is suspected that some claim monies for dead people while others register twice using both their maiden and married names,” he said.
“The head count seeks to find out the truth to the allegations and act accordingly,” he added.
The head count comes months after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed unease over the swelling public sector wage bill.
Michael Thukur, the IMF resident representative in Lesotho, had long urged the government to investigate its bloated wage bill and keep it under check.
His remarks followed the presentation of the 2012/2013 national budget in February by Finance Minister Leketekete Ketso.
During the speech Ketso said the wage bill had become large enough to consume nearly half of the recurrent budget.
He said if measures were not taken it could get out of control.
“We need to note that the wage bill has grown quite substantially as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and consumes close to 50 percent of the recurrent budget, which is high by international standards and can turn out to be unsustainable if unabated,” Ketso said.
“We need to work hard to manage this within sustainable levels. It is therefore critical that in the coming year we look seriously into the public sector reform agenda to determine sustainable civil service personnel, which is also efficient and effective in the delivery of our economic and social development programmes, while targeting retention of skilled personnel,” he said.
He advised the Ministry of Public Service to put up a performance management system that would enable early identification of weaknesses in service delivery and propose remedial measures.
Transformation Resource Centre Director, Tšoeu Petlane, said the operation will clean up the civil service.
Petlane said it could help government to cut costs by wiping the duplication of identities by the employees, as well as arrest possible duplication of posts.