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OSP, Controller identify ‘ghost names’ on govt payroll in Northern Region and saves GH¢34 million

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) have released findings into the government of Ghana Payroll Administration.

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The investigation covered employees on the government payroll in the Northern Region only.

The OSP and CAGD observed that the payroll system in the Northern Region (covering educational institutions under Ghana Education Service and the Tamale Teaching Hospital only) is attended to by an alarming number of unauthorised and inactive validators.

In one instance, it was discovered that a primary school in the Kumbungu District of Ghana Education Service did not exist at all.

Yet, this non-existent contrived entity was represented as staffed and the purported staff were being validated monthly and being paid salaries.

A staggering amount of GH¢2,854,144.80 was identified as unearned monthly salaries, attributed to individuals who were deceased, retired, no longer in their positions, flagged as missing, or whose whereabouts were unknown, commonly referred to as “Ghost Names.”

By blocking these payments and removing the corresponding individuals from the Government Payroll, the Republic saved GH¢34,249,737.60 for the 2024 financial year.

Additionally, ongoing savings are expected for subsequent years, along with potential upward pay adjustments, thanks to the detection of these unearned salaries facilitated by the joint investigation of the OSP.

The OSP and CAGD are engaged in enhanced investigation into the educational institutions under Ghana Education Service in the Northern Region and the Tamale Teaching Hospital aimed at the prosecution of persons who promoted the non-existent school; validated deceased, untraceable, and retired persons and persons who have vacated their posts. subsequent phases of the investigation will extend to the remaining fifteen regions.

Attached below is a copy of the report

Office of the Special Prosecutor, Controller & Accountant General’s Department Report of Investigation: Government of Ghana Payroll Administration (Phase I Vol. 1), 20 May 2024

1.0 Introduction

1.1 The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the Controller and Accountant
General’s Department (CAGD) present this report on investigation into
Government Payroll Administration. This report has been substantially abridged
by the redaction of the identities and activities of persons suspected to be
implicated in corruption and corruption-related offences in respect of
Government Payroll Administration.

1.2 This report is founded on regulation 31(1)(a)&(g) of the Office of the Special
Prosecutor (Operations) Regulations, 2018 (L.I. 2374), which mandates the OSP
to undertake measures to prevent corruption by conducting corruption risk
analysis and publishing detected acts of corruption through the receipt,
collection, or collation of reports, documents, materials, complaints, allegations,
information and intelligence.

1.3 This report is also founded on section 73(1) of the Office of the Special
Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959), which mandates the OSP to conduct
investigations in co-operation with other public institutions.

2.0 The Scope

2.1 In November 2023, after several weeks of consultation and engagement, the
OSP and CAGD jointly commenced corruption risk assessment and
investigation into suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in
respect of Government Payroll Administration. The assessment and
investigation are especially aimed at isolating and removing the names of non
existent, ineligible, and undeserving persons from government payroll,
recovering wrongful payments and unearned salaries, prosecuting persons
suspected to be culpable for any offences, and the institution and
implementation of internal controls in respect of payroll processing and payment
of salaries.

2.2 The investigation and assessment covers all employees on government payroll
and their respective banks and other deposit taking financial institutions. The
investigation and assessment is being carried out in two phases. Phase I covers
Ghana Education Service and Ghana Health Service. Phase II covers Ministries,
Departments, all other Agencies and Metropolitan/Municipal/District
Assemblies (MDAs/MMDAs).

2.3 This report is the first volume of Phase I. It covers the Northern Region only.

3.0 Investigation and Assessment

3.1 The Government of Ghana payroll business process is intended to ensure that
only eligible employees are paid deserving salaries. Two key quality assurance
activities form the foundation of the process, viz – the validation of and by management units to confirm that staff are at
post and have earned the assigned amount; and
the payment of salaries into bank accounts of employees as designated by
employees on the payroll.

3.2 The robustness of the intended quality assurance activities has been seriously
challenged in the past few years with the reckoning that some persons who are
deceased, or retired, or vacated their posts are being validated as alive and at post
and are being paid as if they are actually at post and performing designated duties.

3.3 The imperativeness of a wider and more rigorous review of government payroll
data became obvious. This birthed the ongoing collaborative investigation and
assessment by the OSP and CAGD. Two major activities are being undertaken
by the OSP and CAGD, viz –

i. reconciliation of staff paid on the government payroll system and the
nominal rolls of MDAs/MMDAs; and

ii. confirmation of the account holders’ names on the final payroll payment
report with their respective banks.

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3.4 To facilitate the roll-out of the investigation and assessment throughout the
country, a pilot exercise was carried out in the Northern Region (covering
educational instiutions under Ghana Education Service and the Tamale
Teaching Hospital) by a joint team, comprising investigators, tracers, and
assessors from the OSP and selected staff of the Payroll Processing Directorate
of CAGD between December 2023 and April 2024.

3.5 The team investigated and assessed 1,265 persons represented on Government
payroll and flagged as high-risk of suspected corruption and corruption-related
activities. The data of the flagged persons were transmitted to the respective
banks, which were directed by the Special Prosecutor to promptly withold the
salaries of the affected persons commencing from January 2024. The team of the affected persons. Subsequently, the field unit of the team carried out field
investigation to ascertain the status of the affected persons.

3.6 The team adopted the methodology of extracting data for bank changes,
terminations and reactivations from the National Payroll and the Electronic
Salary Payment Vouchex (ESPV). The team then ascertained from the extracted
data, whether payments made on the payroll system reflected the nominal rolls
of the institutions; whether the account numbers of represented persons on the
payroll system tallied with the data at the respective banks; and whether persons
consistently flagged as missing staff were actually at post.

3.7 The team required the affected persons to submit proof of employment by
providing their first letters of appointment; most recent two months pay slips;
national identification cards for manual verification; and where applicable –
transfer letters, study leave letters, assumption of duty letters, and copies of bank
cheques.

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3.8 The team established the persons to be cleared for payment of salaries;
confirmed cases of unearned salaries (colloquially referred to as “Ghost
Names”); suspected cases for recovery of unearned salaries; and outstanding
cases.

4.0 Observations

4.1 The OSP and CAGD observed that the payroll system in the Northern Region
(covering educational institutions under Ghana Education Service and the
Tamale Teaching Hospital) is attended to by an alarming number of
unauthorised and inactive validators. Indeed, most of the management units
were found to be validating persons through the use of unauthorised and inactive
validators’ credentials. That is to say, the credentials of deceased and retired
validators were being actively used in the validation process. Then again,
transferred validators were purporting to engage in validation with their inactive
previous credentials.

4.2 It was also observed that transferred and released staff were being validated by
their previous management units, creating the clear danger of unattested active
or continuous engagement by the respective institutions.

4.3 It was observed that some schools had no management units to validate staff.
The persons affiliated with the schools were either being validated by their previous affiliated schools or were being offloaded to the nearest schools for validation. This created grave problems of unreliability of the validation process,
especially in respect of the status of the nominal rolls of the district education
directorates and the monitoring of actual attendance to duty.

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4.4 In one instance, it was discovered that xxxxxx DA Primary School in the
Kumbungu District of Ghana Education Service did not exist at all. Yet, this
non-existent contrived entity was represented as staffed and the purported staff
were being validated monthly and being paid salaries. It is extremely worrisome
that a non-existent entity had been designated as a functioning District Assembly
Primary School and the data of the artificially created staff had found its way into
the government payroll system for regular payments.

4.5 Further, some headteachers and heads of units were validating some persons
whose whereabouts were unknown to them. Egregiously, some validators were
validating persons who were, to the knowledge of the validators, deceased,
retired or vacated their posts.

4.6 Out of the sampled high-risk number of 1,265 persons represented on the
payroll, the joint investigation and assessment cleared 1,020 persons as regularly
validated. The Special Prosecutor promptly unfroze the blocked salaries of the
verified regularly validated persons upon the timeous clearance by the joint team,
and these persons have been restored on the payroll system.

4.7 A total amount of Two Million Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand One
Hundred and Forty-Four cedis Eighty pesewas (GHC2,854,144.80) was traced
as representing unearned monthly salaries being paid to persons who are
deceased, retired, vacated their posts, flagged as missing staff, or whose
whereabouts are unknown (colloquially referred to as “Ghost Names”) from
their respective effective dates to January 2024, when it was blocked by the
Special Prosecutor.

4.8 The blockade of the amount of Two Million Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four
Thousand One Hundred and Forty-Four cedis Eighty pesewas
(GHC2,854,144.80) and the removal from Government Payroll of the
corresponding deceased, retired, post vacators, the missing, and those whose
whereabouts are unknown has saved the Republic an amount of Thirty-Four
Million Two Hundred and Forty-Nine Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty
Seven cedis Six pesewas (GHC34,249,737.6) for the 2024 financial year, and
future savings of that amount (in addition to future periodic upward pay
adjustments) for every year that the unearned-salaries-amount would have
remained undetected but for the joint investigation and assessment by the OSP and CAGD of Government Payroll in the Northern Region (covering
educational institutions under Ghana Education Service and Tamale Teaching
Hospital).

5.0 Further Action

5.1 The OSP and CAGD are engaged in enhanced investigation into the educational
institutions under Ghana Education Service in the Northern Region and the
Tamale Teaching Hospital aimed at the prosecution of persons who promoted
the non-existent school; validated deceased, untraceable, and retired persons and
persons who have vacated their posts.

5.2 The OSP is taking steps to recover unearned salaries paid in respect of deceased,
untraceable, and retired persons and persons who have vacated their posts.

5.3 The OSP and CAGD are engaged in the process of directing internal control
mechanisms in respect of payroll processing to substantially reduce the incidence
of the processing and payment of unearned salaries.

5.4 The OSP and CAGD would proceed by extending the investigation to the
remaining fifteen regions under Phase I of the exercise.

Kissi Agyebeng
The Special Prosecutor
The Republic of Ghana
20 May 2024

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