OSP, Controller identify 'ghost names' on govt payroll in Northern Region and saves GH¢34 million
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OSP, Controller identify 'ghost names' on govt payroll in Northern Region and saves GH¢34 million

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the Controller and Accountant General's Department (CAGD) have released findings into the government of Ghana Payroll Administration.

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The investigation covered employees on the government payroll in the Northern Region only.

The OSP and CAGD observed that the payroll system in the Northern Region (covering educational institutions under Ghana Education Service and the Tamale Teaching Hospital only) is attended to by an alarming number of unauthorised and inactive validators.

In one instance, it was discovered that a primary school in the Kumbungu District of Ghana Education Service did not exist at all.

Yet, this non-existent contrived entity was represented as staffed and the purported staff were being validated monthly and being paid salaries.

A staggering amount of GH¢2,854,144.80 was identified as unearned monthly salaries, attributed to individuals who were deceased, retired, no longer in their positions, flagged as missing, or whose whereabouts were unknown, commonly referred to as "Ghost Names."

By blocking these payments and removing the corresponding individuals from the Government Payroll, the Republic saved GH¢34,249,737.60 for the 2024 financial year.

Additionally, ongoing savings are expected for subsequent years, along with potential upward pay adjustments, thanks to the detection of these unearned salaries facilitated by the joint investigation of the OSP.

The OSP and CAGD are engaged in enhanced investigation into the educational institutions under Ghana Education Service in the Northern Region and the Tamale Teaching Hospital aimed at the prosecution of persons who promoted the non-existent school; validated deceased, untraceable, and retired persons and persons who have vacated their posts. subsequent phases of the investigation will extend to the remaining fifteen regions.

Attached below is a copy of the report

Office of the Special Prosecutor, Controller & Accountant General’s Department Report of Investigation: Government of Ghana Payroll Administration (Phase I Vol. 1), 20 May 2024 

1.0 Introduction 

1.1 The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the Controller and Accountant 
General’s Department (CAGD) present this report on investigation into 
Government Payroll Administration. This report has been substantially abridged 
by the redaction of the identities and activities of persons suspected to be 
implicated in corruption and corruption-related offences in respect of 
Government Payroll Administration. 

1.2 This report is founded on regulation 31(1)(a)&(g) of the Office of the Special 
Prosecutor (Operations) Regulations, 2018 (L.I. 2374), which mandates the OSP 
to undertake measures to prevent corruption by conducting corruption risk 
analysis and publishing detected acts of corruption through the receipt, 
collection, or collation of reports, documents, materials, complaints, allegations, 
information and intelligence. 

1.3 This report is also founded on section 73(1) of the Office of the Special 
Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959), which mandates the OSP to conduct 
investigations in co-operation with other public institutions.     

2.0 The Scope  

2.1 In November 2023, after several weeks of consultation and engagement, the 
OSP and CAGD jointly commenced corruption risk assessment and 
investigation into suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in 
respect of Government Payroll Administration. The assessment and 
investigation are especially aimed at isolating and removing the names of non
existent, ineligible, and undeserving persons from government payroll, 
recovering wrongful payments and unearned salaries, prosecuting persons 
suspected to be culpable for any offences, and the institution and 
implementation of internal controls in respect of payroll processing and payment 
of salaries. 

2.2 The investigation and assessment covers all employees on government payroll 
and their respective banks and other deposit taking financial institutions. The 
investigation and assessment is being carried out in two phases. Phase I covers 
Ghana Education Service and Ghana Health Service. Phase II covers  Ministries, 
Departments, all other Agencies and Metropolitan/Municipal/District 
Assemblies (MDAs/MMDAs).

2.3 This report is the first volume of Phase I. It covers the Northern Region only.  

3.0 Investigation and Assessment   

3.1 The Government of Ghana payroll business process is intended to ensure that 
only eligible employees are paid deserving salaries. Two key quality assurance 
activities form the foundation of the process, viz –  the validation of and by management units to confirm that staff are at 
post and have earned the assigned amount; and 
the payment of salaries into bank accounts of employees as designated by 
employees on the payroll. 

3.2 The robustness of the intended quality assurance activities has been seriously 
challenged in the past few years with the reckoning that some persons who are 
deceased, or retired, or vacated their posts are being validated as alive and at post 
and are being paid as if they are actually at post and performing designated duties.  

3.3 The imperativeness of a wider and more rigorous review of government payroll 
data became obvious. This birthed the ongoing collaborative investigation and 
assessment by the OSP and CAGD. Two major activities are being undertaken 
by the OSP and CAGD, viz –  
 
i. reconciliation of staff paid on the government payroll system and the 
nominal rolls of MDAs/MMDAs; and 

ii. confirmation of the account holders’ names on the final payroll payment 
report with their respective banks.

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3.4 To facilitate the roll-out of the investigation and assessment throughout the 
country, a pilot exercise was carried out in the Northern Region (covering 
educational instiutions under Ghana Education Service and the Tamale 
Teaching Hospital) by a joint team, comprising investigators, tracers, and 
assessors from the OSP and selected staff of the Payroll Processing Directorate 
of CAGD between December 2023 and April 2024. 

3.5 The team investigated and assessed 1,265 persons represented on Government 
payroll and flagged as high-risk of suspected corruption and corruption-related 
activities. The data of the flagged persons were transmitted to the respective 
banks, which were directed by the Special Prosecutor to promptly withold the 
salaries of the affected persons commencing from January 2024. The team of the affected persons. Subsequently, the field unit of the team carried out field 
investigation to ascertain the status of the affected persons. 

3.6 The team adopted the methodology of extracting data for bank changes, 
terminations and reactivations from the National Payroll and the Electronic 
Salary Payment Vouchex (ESPV). The team then ascertained from the extracted 
data, whether payments made on the payroll system reflected the nominal rolls 
of the institutions; whether the account numbers of represented persons on the 
payroll system tallied with the data at the respective banks; and whether persons 
consistently flagged as missing staff were actually at post. 

3.7 The team required the affected persons to submit proof of employment by 
providing their first letters of appointment; most recent two months pay slips; 
national identification cards for manual verification; and where applicable – 
transfer letters, study leave letters, assumption of duty letters, and copies of bank 
cheques.   

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3.8 The team established the persons to be cleared for payment of salaries; 
confirmed cases of unearned salaries (colloquially referred to as “Ghost 
Names”); suspected cases for recovery of unearned salaries; and outstanding 
cases.       

4.0 Observations 

4.1 The OSP and CAGD observed that the payroll system in the Northern Region 
(covering educational institutions under Ghana Education Service and the 
Tamale Teaching Hospital) is attended to by an alarming number of 
unauthorised and inactive validators. Indeed, most of the management units 
were found to be validating persons through the use of unauthorised and inactive 
validators’ credentials. That is to say, the credentials of deceased and retired 
validators were being actively used in the validation process. Then again, 
transferred validators were purporting to engage in validation with their inactive 
previous credentials. 

4.2 It was also observed that transferred and released staff were being validated by 
their previous management units, creating the clear danger of unattested active 
or continuous engagement by the respective institutions.  

4.3 It was observed that some schools had no management units to validate staff. 
The persons affiliated with the schools were either being validated by their previous affiliated schools or were being offloaded to the nearest schools for validation. This created grave problems of unreliability of the validation process, 
especially in respect of the status of the nominal rolls of the district education 
directorates and the monitoring of actual attendance to duty.

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4.4 In one instance, it was discovered that xxxxxx DA Primary School in the 
Kumbungu District of Ghana Education Service did not exist at all. Yet, this 
non-existent contrived entity was represented as staffed and the purported staff 
were being validated monthly and being paid salaries. It is extremely worrisome 
that a non-existent entity had been designated as a functioning District Assembly 
Primary School and the data of the artificially created staff had found its way into 
the government payroll system for regular payments. 

4.5 Further, some headteachers and heads of units were validating some persons 
whose whereabouts were unknown to them. Egregiously, some validators were 
validating persons who were, to the knowledge of the validators, deceased, 
retired or vacated their posts. 

4.6 Out of the sampled high-risk number of 1,265 persons represented on the 
payroll, the joint investigation and assessment cleared 1,020 persons as regularly 
validated. The Special Prosecutor promptly unfroze the blocked salaries of the 
verified regularly validated persons upon the timeous clearance by the joint team, 
and these persons have been restored on the payroll system.  

4.7 A total amount of Two Million Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand One 
Hundred and Forty-Four cedis Eighty pesewas (GHC2,854,144.80) was traced 
as representing unearned monthly salaries being paid to persons who are 
deceased, retired, vacated their posts, flagged as missing staff, or whose 
whereabouts are unknown (colloquially referred to as “Ghost Names”) from 
their respective effective dates to January 2024, when it was blocked by the 
Special Prosecutor. 

4.8 The blockade of the amount of Two Million Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four 
Thousand One Hundred and Forty-Four cedis Eighty pesewas 
(GHC2,854,144.80) and the removal from Government Payroll of the 
corresponding deceased, retired,  post vacators, the missing, and those whose 
whereabouts are unknown has saved the Republic an amount of Thirty-Four 
Million Two Hundred and Forty-Nine Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty
Seven cedis Six pesewas (GHC34,249,737.6) for the 2024 financial year, and 
future savings of that amount (in addition to future periodic upward pay 
adjustments) for every year that the unearned-salaries-amount would have 
remained undetected but for the joint investigation and assessment by the OSP and CAGD of Government Payroll in the Northern Region (covering 
educational institutions under Ghana Education Service and Tamale Teaching 
Hospital).  

5.0 Further Action 

5.1 The OSP and CAGD are engaged in enhanced investigation into the educational 
institutions under Ghana Education Service in the Northern Region and the 
Tamale Teaching Hospital aimed at the prosecution of persons who promoted 
the non-existent school; validated deceased, untraceable, and retired persons and 
persons who have vacated their posts. 

5.2 The OSP is taking steps to recover unearned salaries paid in respect of deceased, 
untraceable, and retired persons and persons who have vacated their posts. 

5.3 The OSP and CAGD are engaged in the process of directing internal control 
mechanisms in respect of payroll processing to substantially reduce the incidence 
of the processing and payment of unearned salaries. 

5.4 The OSP and CAGD would proceed by extending the investigation to the 
remaining fifteen regions under Phase I of the exercise.  

Kissi Agyebeng 
The Special Prosecutor 
The Republic of Ghana 
20 May 2024


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