PORT MORESBY - A few years back, it was revealed that a teacher at Oro Province’s rural Bareji High School had no qualifications for the job.
This year, the tireless efforts of Sunday Bulletin journalist Simon Eroro exposed that a consultant hired by the Oro Provincial Government possessed no qualifications for the job he was doing.
Using the transcript of a female University of Papua New Guinea student, he had inserted his face in place of hers and his name over hers.
But he was dumb to leave the same student identification, which investigations showed also belonged to the female student.
These two individuals lacking the required qualifications were paid for their questionable services while.
But there are other people who get paid for not doing any work at all.
In 2018, then public service minister minister Elias Kapavore told NBC News that Papua New Guinea had 4,000 ‘ghost names’ on the public payroll - people who did no work but got paid.
Public service salaries consume the biggest share of the PNG budget. We don’t know if these 4,000 people were removed from the payroll.
Let me look more closely at the Oro cases to see what the provincial government should have done differently to avoid being fooled by fraudsters.
First, a few questions should have been asked. how was the consultant hired? Did the employers ask for a reference? What does his CV say? Did they contact his past employer?
Consultancy is premised on exceptional knowledge, which means there will be years of accumulated skills that can be checked.
These points are basic and show how low the bar is for public service recruitment.
The Oro Provincial Government could also have done better by calling UPNG and asked the school the consultant claimed to have graduated from to forward his transcript instead of relying on the copy he attached on his application.
In 2020, the Morobe Provincial Government called PNG universities and cross-checked the qualifications of their employees to make sure they had the same GPA as that on their transcripts and that they were indeed graduates of those universities.
It’s mind boggling to do some simple arithmetic on how much we’ve spent on the 4,000 ghosts over the years.
A conservative estimate shows that if the ghosts get paid K1,000 a fortnight, that’s K4 million a fortnight.
Multiply K4 million by 26 fortnights in a year and you get K104 million. Over 5 years, PNG had paid K520 million to ghosts.
Gosh we must love ghosts. PNG is so spiritual even ghosts get paid. And those salaries do not include entitlements, gratuities and other allowances.
There are things that we don’t need a loan or aid or China or Australia to solve. They just need common sense.
It may have been be unnecessary for the government to borrow more from overseas if it had saved that half a billion kina on salaries.
We don’t need scripture-quoting prime ministers or rock star politicians with large social media followings.
We just need practical leaders who get the simple things right.