Somalia’s president over the weekend said the vast majority of paid civil servants were neither in the country nor working. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said 3,500 of 5,000 people on the government payroll appear to be so-called ghost workers.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s assertion that most government employees do not show up for work was condemned by Somalis.
While there have been similar claims in the past, the president’s statement was met with outrage and calls for action.
Mahad Mohamud is a fruit vender in Mogadishu.
He notes the government relies heavily on donor support to fund its budget yet it pays people who do not report to work. Mohamud says the so-called ghost workers should be made to refund their salaries and be prosecuted for corruption and abuse of public trust.
Somalia’s 2023 national budget stands at about $960 million, more than two-thirds of it expected to come from donors.
University graduate Deka Elmi says the president and prime minister must swiftly deal with the issue of ghost workers.
She says the government is paying more than 3,500 people who are not present at their offices while students who completed their education are jobless. Elmi says the president and prime minister should urgently do something about it.
President Mohamud talked about the so-called “ghost workers” while addressing officials during Friday prayers at the presidential mosque.
He said the government’s biometric time and attendance system shows the number of staff that are present. Mohamud says the machine does not lie but indicates whoever puts their thumb on it. Civil servants are more than 5,000, he says, but only 1,500 are present.
Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre on Saturday confirmed the problem and ordered ministries to inspect and ensure that staff follow working hours.
University of Somalia political scientist Mohamed Matan doubts there are so many government workers not actually working.
He says threats from al-Shabab militants, who target public servants, may also be keeping some away.
Matan says fear of al-Shabab has forced everyone to trust only a few and to keep away from others. Although, he notes, civil servants cannot be fired and that has also led them not to be committed (to work). And even if they do go to the office, says Matan, they do not work.
Transparency International has for the last two decades ranked Somalia one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Mahad Wasuge is executive director of Somali Public Agenda, a research institution focusing on governance.
He says ghost workers should be removed from public service, which should be reformed.
Wasuge says that can be achieved with a broad government plan regarding the reform of the civil service, which is based on open, transparent recruitment. He says even director generals should be transparently recruited because they are not politicians but are there for administration and technical expertise.
Somalia is hoping to secure debt relief from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank by the end of 2023.
But it requires strict adherence to fiscal procedures, including prudent management of public resources and streamlining Somalia’s public service.