Igg Investigates Suspected Ghost Pensioners

Igg investigates suspected ghost pensioners
Appeared in The New Visionon 14 Oct 2020

The Inspector-General of Government (IGG) has kicked off investigations into the payments to 24,143 suspected ghost pensioners.

Sources revealed Monday, October 12 that 195 government accounting officers have been summoned to appear before the IGG to explain the circumstances under which they were paying the suspected ghost pensioners before they were reportedly temporarily deleted from the payroll.

The investigation was directed by Cabinet after the Ministry of Public Service in July 2019 conducted a second validation exercise for pensioners and queried the payments to the 24,143 pensioners, according to sources.

It was reported that after verification, it was discovered that 24,143 pensioners' biometric data did not match that in the National Identification and Registration Authority records.

As a result, the state minister for ethics and integrity in March 2019 instructed the office of the IGG to launch an investigation into the alleged ghost pensioners.

"In July 2019, after conducting a second validation exercise, the Ministry of Public Service in August 2019 forwarded a detailed list of the suspected ghost pensioners to IGG for investigations," a source informed New Vision.

The estimated wage bill to the pensioners in question is estimated at sh98b per year. IGG spokesperson Ali Munira confirmed the investigations but declined to provide details.

The Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, said the finance ministry is very strict on ghost payments and in this case any accounting officer found to have paid ghost pensioners would be held accountable.

"The pension restructuring process was based on the idea of zero tolerance for ghost payments. This time, if any accounting officer is implicated, he will be held accountable," Muhakanizi said.

In February 2019, the Government decentralised pension payments and the public service ministry undertook a payroll cleaning exercise and biometric validation of all public servants to eliminate ghosts.

"We did a biometric validation of pensioners and claimants for proper identification of beneficiaries, eliminate ghosts and facilitate the creation of a national register of all government employees and retirees," the ministry's permanent secretary, Catherine Bitarakwate, said during the launch of the system.

In May, Muruli Mukasa, the Minister of Public Service, told Journalists at Uganda Media Centre that 7,874 pensioners were deleted from the payroll for failing to present credentials for validation.

The countrywide validation exercise was conducted between June and July 2019 but many pensioners did not show up despite being given a deadline date for validation.

According to the Auditor General's audit report for the financial year that ended on June 30 2014, 19,135 pensioners who had attained the maximum pensionable period of 15 years were still on the ministry's payroll and earning a monthly pension, yet they had not furnished the ministry with life certificates.