Pensioners go unpaid
- as govt cleans up payroll to wed out “ghost” pensioners
THOUSANDS of pensioners failed to receive their monthly payments last week amid indications that the delay was caused by a government exercise to weed out ghost pensioners from the payroll.
A weekend statement from the finance ministry acknowledged the delay in paying the pensioners their February pension. However, the statement did not say why they had not been paid. It merely said this was due to factors beyond the ministry’s control.
“The Ministry of Finance informs all elders who were supposed to receive their pensions from 1 to 5 March 2021 that they will not be getting their monies due to reasons beyond our control.
“They will now be getting their monies from 8 to 12 March 2021. The ministry therefore apologises for the delays,” the statement says.
Although the ministry did not say what had caused the delay, some authoritative government sources said the delay was caused by a government exercise to weed out ghost pensioners from the payroll.
Finance Minister Thabo Sophonea suggested that this could be the case when he told this publication that his ministry was pleading with the pensioners and the “entire nation” to assist him in cleaning up the pensioners’ payroll to rid it of ghost pensioners.
Mr Sophonea said the clean-up exercise began last year with 20 000 pensioners being removed from the payroll. He said most of them were brought back after proving beyond reasonable doubt that they were still alive.
He said he was disheartened by the lack of cooperation from some pensioners in exposing ghost pensioners. He said some people kept quiet even when they were aware that the government continued to make payments to people who had since died.
“I have been cleaning up the system since I became minister (in May 2020),” Mr Sophonea said in an interview with the Sunday Express.
“I must admit that mistakes have happened while we were cleaning the system. I removed 20 000 pensioners from the payroll and those who had been mistakenly taken off the payroll when they were still alive were only restored to the system after they personally came with proof to our offices showing that they were still alive.
“This month alone we have removed 5000 people removed from the payroll and those who have been mistakenly removed will have to come and prove that they are still alive. There is still a long way to go with this exercise and some people will be hurt in the process. But it is not our intention to purposely hurt pensioners.”
He called on pensioners to be patient, saying the clean-up campaign was ultimately to their benefit. He also accused some ministry officials of corruption, saying they personally benefitted from keeping ghost workers on the payroll. He said such officials helped themselves to the money paid out to ghost workers. He said the ongoing audit of the pensioners’ payroll would expose such corrupt officials.