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Sanitising the payroll: Digital or analogue Route?

Sanitising the payroll: Digital or analogue Route?

Before any reader dismisses the question as redundant, the reader must first indulge me by reading the entire submission.


On Monday, April 3, 2023, GTV reported that the Controller and Accountant General’s (CAG) Department was collaborating with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) to sanitise the national payroll.

 The spokesperson was quite passionate in summarising the delinquency unleashed on the payroll by some public servants. He cited ghost names, allowances falsely claimed, with special emphasis on car allowances. The clincher was naming culprit working groups: “Education, health, local governments and tertiary institutions.”

However, those cannot be the only culprits in a country where majority considers government as a bottomless remote administrator. The myopia engenders constant unconscionable exploitation of government resources.

“One does not bite the hand that feeds one”, but the Fantis poignantly capture Ghanaian irrational attitude: Aban edwuma wͻtwe n’adze,” literally, Government’s job is dragged on the ground. To wit, do shoddy work for remuneration.

The Asante rendition – Aban dea, Government’s property, furthers the repugnancy: National funds/property, misconstrued as Government’s, get handled callously and recklessly.  Consequently, public/civil servants, constantly howling for higher remuneration, explore dubiousness to run-down public property or drain so-called Government coffers for self.

Ironically, the same exploited Government appears unable – or unwilling? – to address shameful financial exploitation which consistently cripples the economy. Conscientious Ghanaians continue to hope that digitisation eventually impacts a radical payroll sanitisation but will vindictive elements oblige?

About eight years ago, both CAG and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) conducted autonomous biometric registration within three months to sanitise the payment system. Every colleague was appalled by the process duplication. Both institutions utilise the payroll so only one biometric registration was necessary to service both institutions.

Apparently, some fringe benefits flow to elements who hire consultancies. If one biometric exercise had occurred, the hiring elements in the other institution would have missed out. Therefore, the nation had to lose.

At a stroke, the National Identification Authority could have captured primary identity information for public employees from the payroll/pension data bases and forward to the National Revenue Authority (GRA) for improved taxation. Instead, the process became a chore.

In principle, every public employee already had a Tax Identification Number (TIN), yet the GRA required public employees to go to its local offices to fill TIN forms. The IT team from the GRA only had to collaborate with counterparts from CAG/SSNIT to release public data to activate existing TIN.

In January 2023, I tried to download an income tax form from the GRA website. When I keyed in my national identification number, the system told me that it is not linked to my TIN. Meanwhile, I had previously checked and received a text that my Ghana card was linked to my SSNIT, payroll and TIN records. I called the GRA toll free number and was informed by a very pleasant female officer to go the regional tax office to get my card linked to my TIN.

I have recalled the examples above to accentuate the lack of co-ordination and poor collaboration among complementary public institutions. That lack is the biggest hindrance to decentralisation in the country, which hindrance effectively regresses service delivery in Ghana. Additionally, it effectively blocks transparency and negates excellent provisions for social welfare. Digitisation can right public service dubiousness to an extremely high appreciable level.

As already demonstrated in some sectors, digitisation can remove the human hands which perpetuate financial dubiousness. However, same human hands continue to parry the digital move because the analogue system is highly susceptible to stagnation and dubious manipulation, hence to their advantage. When I got employed by the GES about three decades ago, it took about six months to get me on the payroll. Well, the arrears served a good purpose! Three decades later, it still takes months for new teachers to start receiving salary.

On the flipside of government exploitation is the equally high level of exploitation of many public servants who get deprived of financial benefits. Often, the officers who should process papers would not oblige colleagues. Worse, such officers would process only if they can take a certain percentage of the benefits due another. Worst, some processing officers might even siphon deprived funds into their pockets.  Such dubiousness is replete in all the working groups named above, the unnamed as well.

Against such entrenched abrasive culture, the CAG and FWSC have decided to collaborate to thwart financial waste to curb national losses. I cannot help but wonder about the antagonism that shall be poured on the collaborative path. One cannot forget about the current critical financial times. May the collaboration target of removing ghost names, effacing porous allowance schemes imposed on the payroll, be met!

The writer is a Sr. Lecturer, Language and Communication Skills,Takoradi Technical University

Takoradi. E-mail : [email protected]

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