MAPUTO, Mozambique’s Ministry of State Administration and Public Service fears that wages are being paid to thousands of ghost workers, people whose names are on the books of various government departments, but who do not work there.

According to a report in the Maputo daily, Noticias, the problem was detected during the 2015 proof of life exercise, which involved every single State employee showing up in person at a specified office to prove that he or she is still alive.

There are supposed to be around 357,000 employees in the Mozambican public administration but, according to the Director of Information Technology Systems in the Ministry, Feliciano Chavana, several thousand of these people seem to be fictitious.

Chavana put the number of ghost workers at around 8,600, with at least 2,760 of them still receiving their wages. He guaranteed that the computer platforms used to register State workers indicated exactly which institutions the anomalies occured in.

The officials in charge of these institutions were given until April 30 to explain how their records still contain the names of people who have died, who have retired, or who have been dismissed from State employment.

Chasing down this relatively small number of ghost workers is the justification for the annual proof of life exercise although this has its own costs.

Most state workers have to take time off to present themselves in person. For each worker, the exercise is unlikely to take less than an hour. So across the entire State apparatus, the cost is 357,000 man-hours of work lost.

The exercise is now supposed to be annual, and currently the 2017 proof of life is under way.