By Ernest Obeng Anim
Public sector workers can now heave a sigh of relief with the suspension of the directive by the Controller and Accountants General’s Department CAGD asking those who are yet to register with the National Identification Authority, NIA for their Ghana Cards to do so by December 1 or forfeit their salary. A little over a week ago, when the directive was announced in the media, affected workers became alarmed and frustrated knowing the importance of the December salary. Most people use part of the money for the Christmas and New Year festivities and reserve the rest for school fees. Based on this, the affected workers became apprehensive and more frustrated. Some started pouring out their frustrations in media interviews, others took permission to go and register while the rest decided to absent themselves to do the needful.
The Trades Union Congress, TUC, listening to the concerns of the workers pleaded with the CAGD to extend the deadline to give the unregistered staff ample time to go through the process to obtain their Ghana Card. The CAGD was adamant and insisted that the date will not change. This aggravated the frustration of the affected workers creating fear and panic among them.
Leadership of the TUC therefore decided to act on the concerns of the affected workers to find a solution to the problem. This prompted a meeting between the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Finance Ministry, CAGD and Organized Labour representing the affected workers.
At the end of the meeting, it was decided that CAGD should port the existing database onto the NIA platform and inform the affected institutions of their unregistered staff for them to register for their Cards. This arrangement is by far a better way of harmonizing the biometric database of the two institutions. It is pertinent to advise the affected workers not to take the gesture for granted and relax, rather they should make it a point to register for their Cards within a short time to avoid any problems in future.
As much as workers appreciate efforts being made to weed off ghost names from the CAGD payroll, there should be better ways to handle this without creating problems for workers and their families anytime a decision is taken to clean the payroll. One wonders why several attempts including head counts have been adopted to clean the payroll, but year after year there are reports of it being bloated. What is more worrying being that all efforts and resources invested in cleaning the payroll have not succeeded in unmasking the faces behind the ghost names? The digitization programme embarked upon by the government and the harmonization of the database of the two institutions looks hopeful of having a clean payroll system which previous efforts and financial commitments could not achieve.
However, equipment being used for the harmonization process will not be complete without the assistance of human beings and therefore management of these institutions undertaking the project should be vigilant to achieve the ultimate goal. This will save the country the annual ritual of organizing programs to weed out ghost names which resurfaces within a short time. It is about time the country made progress in this direction. For how long will Ghanaians sit unconcerned for a few unscrupulous people to take the country for ransom by using crude ways to enrich themselves. The digitization drive should be the last effort to make the CAGD payroll clean. Stringent measures should be taken against anybody found inserting ghost names onto the payroll to deter others from indulging in such acts. Any strategy that succeeds in eliminating the ghost names permanently should be upgraded periodically to ensure that people do not find ways of compromising the system. This will go a long way to see to the end of the perennial hunting for ghosts that keep hijacking the payroll and milking the country of millions of Ghana Cedis. Let’s all support the government and the institutions to clean the payroll. Kudos to all who contributed to finding a solution to the directive that nearly created confusion among workers.