EDUCATION permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp says the ministry will carry out payroll verification in all 14 regions once every two years to reduce incidents of possible fraud.
Steenkamp said this in her response to questions from The Namibian regarding the arrest of 18 teachers and two former accountants in the education ministry.
The teachers and the former accountants from the Zambezi region were arrested on allegations of defrauding the education ministry of N$10 million from January 2012 to June 2016.
They appeared in the Katima Mulilo Magistrates Court and the teachers were granted bail of N$20 000 each. The former accountants were denied bail and remain in custody. The case was postponed to 4 December.
The verification process, Steenkamp said, so far has been an invaluable exercise that would be done regularly. She said they believe the mandatory payroll checks would reduce instances of possible fraud as regions will be forced to be more vigilant.
"The exercise would be conducted once every two years and will be extended to non-teaching staff such as literacy promoters as well," she stressed.
Steenkamp noted that the ministry conducted investigations into the fraudulent payments in Kavango East and West regions as well as the Zambezi.
"The head count was done during November 2016, and subsequent follow-ups were done during January and February 2017.
"The focus of the 2016 verification was for teaching and non-teaching staff," she said.
Steenkamp further said the probe and audits were prompted by recurrent overspending of the budget, especially in the area of personnel expenditure, fraudulent activities as well as signals from the public on the existence of possible "ghost teachers".
"This critical exercise revealed some discrepancies about payment of salaries and allowances to staff members that have long resigned, retired or were dismissed from the public service, while there are still cases of teachers/support staff that have not signed as proof of existence during the verification process," she noted.