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OSP, Controller saves GH¢34 million from ‘ghosts’ on govt payroll in Northern Region

The OSP and CAGD said 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.

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An investigation report released by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) has disclosed unidentified persons on government payroll in the Northern Region. 

The OSP and CAGD said 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.

According to the report, 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.

Below is a copy of the report released by the OSP and CAGD

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.

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.   

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.

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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