Tanzania orders probe into "ghost workers" on government payroll

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has ordered a probe into “ghost workers” on the public sector payroll after a new audit revealed the government paid 141.4 billion Tanzanian shillings ($76.6 million) to fake workers over the past year.

“Where there is clear evidence, the officials involved should be arrested and prosecuted,” Kikwete said in a statement issued by the president’s office.

“We need to send a strong message to all those taking part in the misappropriation of public funds.”

The president also ordered authorities to take disciplinary measures against public officials involved in the scandal, including compulsory retirement and demotions.

Tanzania’s chief auditor presented an annual government audit report to Kikwete on Friday, which highlighted the problem of ghost workers in public service plus embezzlement and unauthorized expenditures by officials.

The president said days were numbered for officials stealing from public coffers by paying salaries to fake government employees who were either deceased, retired or had resigned from employment.

The audit also uncovered inefficiencies in the public service system where the government continued to pay monthly pension contributions and payroll taxes for former employees who had long left the public service.

Tanzania has a workforce of over 300,000 civil servants and spends around 5 trillion shillings each year on salaries of public service workers.

Next week members of parliament are scheduled to debate findings of the government audit report.

($1 = 1,845.0000 Tanzanian shillings)

Reporting Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by George Obulutsa and Stephen Powell