Yemen reforms corruption-ridden public payroll

21 August 2014

Whatever the concerns about payroll compliance in both private and public sectors in this country, it is perhaps reassuring to note that things can be much worse in some parts of the world. A new initiative to remove thousands of ‘ghost workers’ from the bureaucracy of the Yemen could apparently save $200m.

We are grateful to Gulf News for this report:

Yemen’s government has begun applying a biometric registration system for all military personnel in order to clear the public payroll from double-dippers and so-called ‘ghost workers’. Experts say the step has been taken due to pressure from international donors and the public. The cash-strapped government believes that purging ghost employees from the payroll will save millions of dollars every year.

Double-dippers are those who are registered twice on the payroll and receive two salaries from two different public sector jobs. Ghost workers are fake names that are put on the payroll or those workers who receive one salary but do not serve in their positions. Some ghost workers do not even live in Yemen.

Teams have been sent to military camps across the country to take photos and fingerprints of the soldiers. Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said on August 3 that the teams should finish registering all soldiers before the end of October. Starting from October, military personnel will receive their salaries in person or through their accounts in the post offices across the country. The government warned soldiers who do not show up during the registration that they will be delisted from the payrolls, their salaries will stop being disbursed, and that they could face legal measures.

For decades, security chiefs of the military camps were assigned to receive salaries of their soldiers, which they in turn distributed. Activists say that due to years of nepotism, thousands of fake names were registered in the public payroll. Mustafa Nasser, the head of the Economic Media and Studies Centre, an economic think-tank based in the Yemeni capital, told Gulf News that government began applying the new measures in the military since it is awash with ghost workers and double dippers. “Some commanders of army brigades receive the salary of 3,000 soldiers while they have only hundreds on duty.”

A recent official report published on the state-run Al Thawra daily on August 12 pointed out that reforming the public payroll would save $200 million (Dh734.42 million) annually. Nasser said that when the government lifted fuel subsidies last month, people feared that the savings could go to the tens of thousands of ghost workers and double dippers in the army.

Anti-corruption activists say that the double-dipping is created when soldiers join a college or take a new job after ensuring that their names are put on the payroll. “For example, when a soldier graduates from the college of engineering, he gets a new job as an engineer while maintaining his first job,” Nasser said. The soldier greases his commander’s palm to keep his fist post.

Jane Marriott, the UK ambassador to Yemen, hailed the government’s decision’s to apply the biometric fingerprinting system since it will contribute to stemming the growth of corruption in Yemen. “Corruption is a significant issue in Yemen: there are those who take more than one wage; there are ghost workers and double-dippers. The biometric system should remove the worst of this corruption and ensure those who do their job are paid appropriately,” she told Gulf News.