Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula investigates how 3,000 unverified workers got on the payroll of South Africa’s state-owned Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa).
The minister said Prasa has begun physically verifying all of its employees under Project Ziveze, adding that since the wage freeze on employees who did not actually work at the company, more employees have come forward to be verified.
He added that a forensic investigation is currently underway into how the ‘ghost’ employees made their way onto the payroll.
“As soon as the investigation is completed, action will be taken against those involved.”
In a virtual meeting earlier this year, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts held a hearing on Prasa’s annual report for fiscal year 2020/21 and investigated irregular, useless and wasteful spending.
The committee raised questions about the railway agency’s action plan to address the repeated findings of small concrete plans to improve the sector and the fact that in 2020/21 full salaries were paid while no work was done.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the process of restoring the service was extremely slow due to the state of the infrastructure.
The subject of a possible organized crime syndicate has been identified by the minister as responsible for the systematic vandalism and destruction of Prasa.
In June, Prasa announced the award of the 5-year General-Overhaul contract worth R7.5 billion. The purpose of the contract is to enable the heavy maintenance and repairs of its railcars and to clear the backlog. The contract has been awarded nationally to five contractors.
Prasa said the contract has the potential to revitalize and fuel the economy as more than 2,000 direct jobs are expected to be created.
The South African government has a history of ‘ghost workers’, with departments, municipalities and state-owned companies stamping more than billions of rand on people who don’t actually work for them.
Problems surrounding ghost workers are often discovered when these groups do a physical count of the workforce and compare the numbers to payroll, finding many individuals illegally receiving paychecks.
In 2021, the municipality of Msunduzi in KwaZulu-Natal discovers as many as 120 ghost employees who failed to show up for staffing. In 2020, the city of Tshwane said it had managed to achieve as many as 1,400 ghost workers on his salary system.
In June 2022, the Mpumalanga Provincial Government announced a large-scale process to verify all 83,000 of its employees on the Personal and Payroll System (Persal).
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