More than 80,000 civil servants are being tested in South Africa to see if they are ‘ghost workers’.

The Mpumalanga provincial government has announced a major screening process for all employees in the Personnel and Payroll (Persal) system.

Personnel verification will be carried out using a biometric fingerprint system that will authenticate employees against existing data in the Persal system, the Mpumalanga Provincial Treasury said.

There are currently 83,187 thousand employees in the provincial government system and projected expenditure for the year ending March 31, 2023 is R33.6 billion. The verification process began in March and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2022.

Vusi Mhatshwa, head of the provincial finance, economic development and tourism department, said the personnel screening project is one of the cost control measures aimed at building confidence in provincial budget management.

“The main purpose of this event is to ensure that public funds are paid to existing staff who contribute to the functioning of the provincial government,” said MEC Mkhatshwa.

“The draft is in line with Article 18 of the Public Financial Management Law No. 18. 1 of 1999, which requires the provincial treasury, among other things, to promote and ensure transparency and efficient management of the revenues, expenditures, assets and liabilities of provincial departments and provincial government agencies.”

The South African government has historically faced the problem of “ghost” workers, with taxpayers paying bills for hundreds of non-existent government employees.

In particular, in 2021 the municipality of Msunduzi in KwaZulu-Natal discovered as many as 120 ghost employees who did not show up for registration. In 2020, the city of Tswane claimed to have been able to identify at least 1400 ghost workers in their wage system.

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