1,159 ghost workers disappear at Prasa
Mbalula says ‘employees’ vanished after Operation Ziveze
About 1,159 “employees” vanished from the payroll system of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) in a single day when the parastatal launched “Operation Ziveze” to crack down on ghost workers last year.
The disappearance of these people saved Prasa R200m in salaries that were paid to people who were earning salaries but not doing any work for the agency. Prasa also noticed that its salary bill had dropped by R20m a month during the investigations.
This was revealed by transport minister Fikile Mbalula when he briefed the media on the preliminary investigations on ghost workers at Prasa.
Prasa launched the investigations last year through Operation Ziveze after discovering 3,100 ghost employees. Workers were asked to voluntarily come forward for verification.
Out of 17,268 employees at Prasa, 14,268 presented themselves with documentation for verification and 1,159 simply disappeared from the system.
Those who vanished included the lowest paid worker up to assistant managers. A total of 3,000 employees failed to present themselves for the verification process.
Mbalula said Prasa then hired a service provider to establish if these were indeed ghost employees and to identify weaknesses in its system.
He said the investigation was conducted with the support of home affairs, Sars, Umalusi, and South African Qualifications Authority.
Mbalula said the investigation flagged 2,143 people as possible ghost employees or employees masquerading as somebody else who had submitted fraudulent qualifications and some with “serious criminal offences”.
“The investigation also revealed a number of instances where ID photos did not match the face of employees. This has triggered further investigations… This form of corruption cannot be characterised as anything other than stealing from the taxpayer.
“This is conduct we must all frown upon and encourage law enforcement agencies to act with necessary speed to unleash the full might of the law on those hell-bent on stealing public funds,” Mbalula said.
He said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had been brought in to investigate as Prasa believed those who resigned could be working with someone inside the company.
Prasa board member Adv Smanga Sethene said at the moment, the person who removed the ghost workers from the system is unknown.
“As to who removed them in the system, that is the subject of investigations. We had a discussion with the head of SIU last week. It is certainly someone from within Prasa.
“As to how long have these people been in the system, that is also the matter that we thought SIU will be well capacitated to investigate. In no time, the minister [Mbalula] will convene to give you an update on that,” Sethene said.
Mbalula said: “We are cleaning up the place and those crooks who are in the system, we have an appointment with them.
“The are going to fall. Obviously, something like this cannot be done by one person. It is a scam, an operation, it is a syndicate.”