Ghost work­ers gob­ble mil­lions

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing has for sev­eral years failed to main­tain hu­man re­source records, proper ac­count­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion sys­tems re­sult­ing in a sit­u­a­tion where mil­lions out of its M1.7 bil­lion an­nual wage bill for teach­ers are spent pay­ing ghost teach­ers.

In ad­di­tion, the Pri­mary School Feed­ing Programme is in sham­bles amid rev­e­la­tions that M1500 per month pay­ments are be­ing ad­vanced to in­di­vid­u­als who are not con­tracted to cater for learn­ers’ feed­ing re­quire­ments un­der the programme.

This came to light dur­ing a re­cent Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee (PAC) hear­ing in which of­fi­cials from the min­istry’s Teach­ing Ser­vice Depart­ment (TSD) ap­peared be­fore par­lia­ment to ex­plain their ac­tiv­i­ties.

The TSD is a depart­ment within the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing which serves as the sec­re­tariat of the Teach­ing Ser­vice Com­mis­sion and it has the man­date of im­ple­ment­ing all the de­ci­sions the com­mis­sion.

Among other things, the TSD is man­dated to hire teach­ers on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the com­mis­sion, pay their salaries as well as main­tain teach­ers’ records.

It how­ever, emerged dur­ing this week’s ap­pear­ance of TSD of­fi­cials be­fore the Se­libe Mo­choboroane-led PAC ( pic­tured) that the depart­ment has been spend­ing mil­lions of mal­oti over sev­eral pay­ments to ghost work­ers chiefly be­cause of the fail­ure to main­tain proper staff records and ac­count­ing pro­ce­dures.

The Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing min­istry’s Deputy Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Ratšiu Ma­jara, and other TSD of­fi­cials who ini­tially sought to deny any wrong-do­ing were forced to per­form an em­bar­rass­ing about-turn when they were con­fronted with in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence of their short­com­ings in the form of a leaked au­dio clip as well re­search from one of the con­stituen­cies.

“We have sys­tems in place to check whether we are pay­ing ghost teach­ers or not and there are no ghosts on our pay­roll as far as I know,” Mr Ma­jara said in his re­but­tal of ac­cu­sa­tions that they were pay­ing ghost teach­ers and mis­man­ag­ing their af­fairs. His story would change a few min­utes later in the face of seem­ingly in­con­tro­vert­ible ev­i­dence from Mr Mo­choboroane and other PAC mem­bers.

Peeved with de­nials of any wrong-do­ing, Mr Mo­choboroane played a record­ing which was al­legedly made by one of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing of­fi­cials warn­ing TSD of­fi­cials of the im­pend­ing ap­pear­ance be­fore the PAC.

In the record­ing, a woman said to be ‘Manyakallo Phothane is heard warn­ing one of her col­leagues of the need to pre­pare con­vinc­ing re­sponses to ex­plain to the PAC why ghost teach­ers have con­tin­ued to be paid from gov­ern­ment cof­fers. She also warns them to brace them­selves for tough ques­tions per­tain­ing to the Pri­mary School Feed­ing Programme.

“Lis­ten here Jonny, we all know the num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als en­gaged un­der the school feed­ing programme per each dis­trict and an es­ti­mated to­tal of their pay­ments for each month,” Ms Phothane can be heard say­ing.

“We are how­ever, in trou­ble with the is­sue of M1500 pay­ments we have been mak­ing to in­di­vid­u­als without school feed­ing programme con­tracts.

“The is­sue of ghost teach­ers is also at its high­est peak in the TSD and we need to pray re­ally hard to en­sure that we come out of the PAC in­ter­ro­ga­tion un­scathed be­cause our in­ves­ti­ga­tions show that these are some of the is­sues Mo­choboroane and oth­ers are go­ing to grill us on,” Ms Phothane con­tin­ues.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter play­ing the au­dio, Mr Mo­choboroane put it to the min­istry’s of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Mr Ma­jara that they had been pay­ing ghost teach­ers for sev­eral years while at the same time mis­man­ag­ing the funds for the School Feed­ing Programme.

“The au­dio I have just played was made by one per­son who works at the min­istry’s head­quar­ters and she was tip­ping off the TSD em­ploy­ees,” Mr Mo­choboroane said.

Faced with de­nials of wrong-do­ing by Mr Ma­jara, Mr Mo­choboroane went on to pro- duce some doc­u­ments that ap­peared to show that the TSD was been pay­ing some sub­sti­tute ghost teach­ers in a school in his Tha­bana-morena con­stituency.

“Im­me­di­ately af­ter re­ceiv­ing the leaked au­dio clip, I did my own in­ves­ti­ga­tions in Tha­bana-morena and I found that Mote­molane Pri­mary School has never had a Liepollo Mon­a­heng as a sub­sti­tute teacher for one M. Mo­hau who has never worked there in the first place.

“There is also one Evo­dia Bu­lane who has been re­ceiv­ing a monthly salary from the TSD even though she is a ghost teacher,” Mr Mo­choboroane said.

Mr Mo­choboroane fur­ther showed that there was one Se­nate Le­bona who was em­ployed twice by the TSD and was re­ceiv­ing two monthly salaries which were de­posited to two dif­fer­ent bank ac­counts.

The doc­u­ments that Mr Mo­choboroane pro­duced had the TSD stamp and the Tha­bana-morena leg­is­la­tor de­manded to know the iden­tity of the sig­na­to­ries that ap­peared on the pa­pers.

He also con­demned the TSD’S fail­ure to put in place, sys­tems to en­sure that its pay­roll was free of ghost teach­ers, adding that par­lia­ment would coun­te­nance such gross vi­o­la­tions of good cor­po­rate gov­er­nance prac­tices which ul­ti­mately con­trib­uted to the high un­em­ploy­ment of qual­i­fied teach­ers.

The min­istry has of­ten claimed that it was un­able to ab­sorb all grad­u­ate teach­ers due to fund­ing chal­lenges. An­other PAC mem­ber also weighed on the saga, ac­cus­ing the TSD of con­tin­u­ing to pay one Mo­ri­ana Marume, de­spite the lat­ter’s death in 2011.

An­other PAC mem­ber, Palo Le­tee­tee, also re­vealed that one Keron­goe Le­lesa who was pur­port­edly en­gaged as a ca­sual teacher at Khot­lang High School was paid two salaries in 2016.

Af­ter hav­ing ini­tially de­nied wrong-do­ing, Mr Ma­jara was forced to con­cede that there were se­ri­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the op­er­a­tions of the TSD.

“I can­not dis­pute the in­for­ma­tion you are putting for­ward and if that is what is hap- pen­ing, pay­ing ghosts is theft and steal­ing is not al­lowed in the pub­lic ser­vice.

“But our sys­tem clearly hasn’t picked these anom­alies. This shows that our of­fi­cers are ma­nip­u­lat­ing the sys­tem and we will need to fol­low-up on the ev­i­dence you have put for­ward.”

For her part, TSD Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer, ‘Masel­loane Sehlabi, said they did not read­ily have the list of all teach­ers on the pay­roll and it was there­fore dif­fi­cult to as­cer­tain the ve­rac­ity of the leg­is­la­tors’ al­le­ga­tions.

She how­ever, said she “would not dis­pute that peo­ple might fraud­u­lently fill in em­ploy­ment forms, mas­querad­ing as real teach­ers while they are ghost work­ers”.

“In Jan­uary alone, we spent more than M139 mil­lion on teach­ers’ salaries. We have plus or mi­nus 15 000 teach­ers on our pay­roll,” Ms Sehlabi said.

She said while the min­istry spent 85 per­cent of its bud­get which trans­lated to M1.7 bil­lion an­nu­ally on teach­ers’ salaries, there were no rec­on­cil­i­a­tion sys­tems in place to en­sure that only de­serv­ing teach­ers were paid.

Asked if she agreed that the pay­roll had ghost work­ers, Ms Sehlabi said, “If there are ghost teach­ers, yes the M1.7 bil­lion in­cludes salaries of the ghosts”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.