Botswana: Ghost Employees Cost Mobe Millions

The Ministry of Basic Education is losing millions of pula due to ghost employees who continue to receive salaries even after death or retirement, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told on Tuesday.

Appearing before the PAC,Permanent Secretary in MoBE, Bridget John and Chief Accountant Keneilwe Seoketsi revealed that the ministry has suffered huge financial losses due to overpayment of teachers' salaries and allowances in addition to ghost employees. PAC members for the lax state of affairs at MoBE grilled the accounting officers.

PAC members led by a hard probing Chairman, Selebi Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse, described MOBE as a ministry on sickbed, where anything can go wrong and not be accounted for. According to PAC, decay and incompetence has become the order of the day at basic education and an intensified financial audit needs to be undertaken at the ministry.

John was hauled over coals as she narrated the level of financial losses that the ministry continues to incur as ghost employees gobble millions. "We have realized that budget has been drained by the overpayment of salaries and allowances to some teachers. Some of the teachers who are on retirement has been also getting payments and this is because of system error. We are on process to collect such debts arisen," John said.

Some of the former ministry employees who are said to have retired many years ago continue to receive millions of pula annually. A growing number of ghost workers over the years turned up on the government payroll and this showed when government setup new Oracle human resource management system in 2014. John indicated that they are in the process of undertaking an assessment of the system so that they can be able to have a clear records of real workers but PAC dismissed ministry as corrupt.

The grilling by the committee also unearthed that ministry is failing to collect debts from those caught profiting with Attorney General office telling PAC that MOBE is not taking issues serious.

PAC furious

Fumbling to respond to the questions from the members, PAC Chairman Keorapetse said John should keep her ministerial house in order indicating most of the issues that are burning were still probed in previous PAC meeting therefore questioning her ability as ministry's top brass. "Next time this committee will send you back if you are not well prepared to respond to issues that we probe you about. It is not good for you to tell us you cannot provide answers today on what we probe you on citing you are not prepared on such matters," Keorapetse warned John.

Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi expressed discontent with rampant shortage of text books in public schools noting that John as Accounting Officer should ensure books availability.

Mmolotsi also cornered John over the matter of delayed overtime payment to the teachers noting ministry should consider to request separate budget for overtime so to avoid rampant inconvenience caused to teachers now adding that donkey carts transport should be abolished.

For his part MP for Bobonong Taolo Lucas expressed concern over the transferring of teachers saying that some teachers overstayed without transfers hence ministry violating transfer policy. According to Lucas, the ministry is not keeping the regulations of the policy which stipulates that teachers should be transferred out in every five years but it remains just a pie in the sky.

Delayed projects

Furthermore, MPs raised concern over the unfulfilled promises that were made recently by ministry leadership that portal cabins would be procured to reduce overcrowding in classes.

The development was aimed at ensuring compliance to Covid-19 health protocols on social distance in schools but PAC is not content that ministry has not procured them as promised.

However, John indicated that the 400 portal cabins are expected to be procured anytime soon adding that the delay was a result of tender allocation, which she said, is still under evaluation.

"The portal cabins are still up for consideration and they would be specifically disbursed to the secondary schools and not primaries. Initially, we had expected them to be in schools before the reopening but regrettably got deferred. I don't recall how much they will cost," she said.

PAC members expressed dissatisfaction over the habitual delays in attaining of materials by basic education also probing on botched execution of facelifts of some dilapidated schools.

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