The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) has warned of legal action against banks and employees detected to be receiving fraudulent salaries or allowances, a practice that is contributing to the drain on the national coffers.
The Chief Executive Officer of the FWSC, Benjamin Arthur, gave the warning ahead of a nationwide payroll monitoring exercise.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, he urged persons who might have received money, such as salaries or allowances, illegally or unduly to refund it of their own volition before it was detected, else they would face the full rigours of the law.
The FWSC yesterday served notice that it would embark on a nationwide payroll monitoring exercise, in collaboration with its relevant stakeholders, from Saturday, April 1, this year.
While the commission conducts the exercise on sample sizes, it intends to expand the scope to cover the entire public sector payroll system.
The monitoring exercise forms part of its mandate, as the government agency responsible for the setting and monitoring of allowances and benefits, as well as co-ordinate, manage and monitor collective bargaining processes in which the government is the direct or indirect employer.
The April 1 exercise is geared towards sanitising the public sector payroll by identifying and expunging any existing fraud and anomalies on it.
It is also aimed at ensuring that only approved salaries and allowances are paid.
“To this end, the commission entreats all boards/councils and heads of public sector Institutions to conduct their own internal payroll audit and clean-up ahead of that of the commission,” the FWSC said in a statement.
It added that the exercise should cover basic salaries and all types of allowances and benefits.
“By this communication, banks and individuals in receipt of fraudulent salaries and allowances are also advised to take steps to refund same and cease from further fraudulent practices or face the full rigours of the law,” it warned.
Mr Arthur explained that the exercise was not the first time but an annual ritual which had been pursued based on sampling.
“This time, the focus will not be on individual entities but the entire public sector and the exercise is to be done within the year on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
The previous exercises, he said, helped to expunge non-deserving and inactive employees from the payroll.
He added that it also helped to tighten internal controls based on recommendations, which had helped to improve the system.
“Indeed, it is the first time we are having such an exercise on a larger scale. We are looking at not just agencies; we are looking at sector by sector. If it is the agricultural sector, we want to look at it entirely; if it is manufacturing, we want to look at the public sector workers there, the payroll and the rest,” he said.
Mr Arthur said the commission would not cover up any criminality when detected, stressing: “If there is crime involved, obviously there are state entities to deal with the criminal aspect. If the irregularities are such that we have to make recommendations for correction, we will do so.”
He said it was a serious exercise which had come to stay and “so we are sensitising the public to the consequences of engaging in anything criminal when it comes to payroll and allowances”.