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FEATURES  

ď800 Civil Servants Caught as Ghost WorkersĒ - IRMT
By Abu Shaw
Sep 26, 2011, 13:15
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The Programme Manager of the Teachers Records Management Improvement Programme TRMIP, Mr. Muniru Kawa gave an exclusive interview to the Awareness Times Editor Abu Shaw on Friday September 23, 2011 at their Wesley Street office in Freetown. The interview was based on the activities of the International Records Management Trust IRMT, a non governmental organisation that was contracted by the government of Sierra Leone to build the records of civil servants in the country. IRMT, supervised by Sierra Leoneís Public Sector Reform Unit, has made significant inroads since they commenced operations here six years ago. They have made a land mark by reducing ghost workers in the country thereby making significant gains for the government. The latest project IRMT has embarked on is the Teachers Records Management Improvement Programme TRMIP. Also present during the exclusive interview was the IRMT Records Management Specialist Mr. Andrew Griffin, who was kind enough to take one or two snap shots while the interviewing was in progress.


Mr. Muniru Kawa, right, with Abu Shaw during the interview

 

ABU SHAW: I am here to conduct a short interview regarding the activities of the International Records Management Trust IRMT in Sierra Leone. Thank you for giving me audience and welcome to the interview Mr. Muniru Kawa.

MUNIRU KAWA: Thank you.

 

ABU SHAW: One of the main things that our readers would like to know is what the Teachers Records Management Improvement Programme TRMIP is all about.

MUNIRU KAWA: The Teachers Records Management Improvement Programme TRMIP, as the name itself implies, is an endeavour to manage records of teachers who are on the government of Sierra Leone pay roll. I mean records, every record that has to do with teachers, recruitment, promotion and separation.

 

ABU SHAW: I was made to understand that you have been here for some time now in Sierra Leone. What has your company done so far in Sierra Leone?

MUNIRU KAWA: Yes. The programme itself started there about in 2005, in February 2005 to be precise. But it did not start with the teachersí projects specifically. It started with the creation of the Human Resource Management office and the implementation of the record finding equipment programme. That programme had to do with looking at the civil service per se. As you know the civil service is quite distinct from teacher service. They are all working under the public service.¬† At the time, we were looking at the civil service personnel files. We were able to determine what gaps were there within those files and having determined those, we tried to fill those gaps that were on the personnel files. Once that one was achieved, another assignment was given to us to look at how those files reconciled with the payroll of the Accountant Generalís. And we found out that there were gaps. So the government requested that we take that information of the civil service in to the fields to verify the civil servants and match the payroll as against the records we have created on the civil servants. That project terminated there about in 2009. There were other specific projects, for instance, strengthening the human resources management office, migrating the information from the files in to documents, in to archive system by scanning essential documents as well as strengthening the security system, to place close circuit cameras which try to restrict the movements of visitors within the rooms, barring entirely visitors who come to the Human Resource office from entering in to record office. So it was a successful programme and once the system was institutionalised at Human Resource level, we have been thinking to replicate that in to somewhere in the public service and fortunately, the government of Sierra Leone thought it fit that we should shift again in to the teachers as well. And that is where we are right now.

 

ABU SHAW: I understand that you are working very hard to stop ghost workers and youíve taken some actions to reduce the number of ghost workers. What can you say about that?¬†

MUNIRU KAWA: So far we havenít done much on the teachers as yet. But on the civil service once we got that verification we are able to identify nearly 800 civil servants as ghost workers. There removal from the payroll was dependent upon whether they are not going to be available at all. If they appear at some point in time they may appeal against their removal from the payroll and they can be re-instated if there are enough reasons presented why for instance, they were not available for verification. But if they did not appear at all to appeal for the re-instatement, then they will permanently be removed. And that makes some gains for government. Thatís about thirteen per cent of the payroll in 2008. But with teachers, all what we have done, we have not taken decision or we have not submitted any report to government as to removing ghosts, because we do not know as yet whether there are ghosts or not. All we have for now is data that has been gathered. So what we have to do is to take that data straight to the fields. We have to be visiting every school in the country and then match the data that we have gathered with the teachers. If the teachers are not there, we donít have the mandate to say there are ghosts or not. But we are going to present a report to the Minister of Education who would then analyse the report to determine whether there are ghosts or not. All we would be obliged to do is present a report on the data we have collected to know who we captured and who we did not capture. It is left with government to determine that.

 

ABU SHAW: When did you plan to start touring the schools to verify ghost workers?

MUNIRU KAWA: We are starting verification within Freetown and its environs. That would be around the 5th of October, 2011.

 

ABU SHAW: I know this is one of the government programme, Agenda for Change. I am sure President Koromaís government is so determined to wipe out corruption or at least minimise it. I do not know how you get funding. Is it through the government or from external donors?

MUNIRU KAWA: We get funding from both.  Government initially funded the teacher service programme which has to do with creation of personnel files. There were no personnel files for teachers. The government provided the initial funding and we created files for 35,305 teachers who were on the payroll. Those files are there in the ministry. Those are the files we will be taking to the fields to match with the payroll.

 

ABU SHAW: Itís clear your programme needs new technologies to ease the verification of ghost workers. Do you have the technology available to do your job properly?

MUNIRU KAWA: Yes, we have funding that covers that. And that makes our methodology distinct. Ours is not targeting teachers at specific locations. Ours is to tour all the schools in the country. The loopholes with other methodologies have been calling teachers to one location and try to verify them. This is illegitimate because they are not being verified at their places of work. Our methodology is such that our investigation will meet the teachers or persons at their respective places of work. We expect every teacher at school A, to be at school A. Thatís the difference with our methodology. The other benefit of our methodology is that itís scientific and we are using technology in the form of finger print scanners, GTS cameras where we capture not only the teachers but the schools. And that would be on satellite. So at the touch of a button, we will be able to see the school as far away as possible.

 

ABU SHAW: Definitely, there are other stakeholders working with you to make it easier. For example WAEC or Universities where these teachers must have graduated from, do you have the cooperation of these stakeholders for your verification?

MUNIRU KAWA: The scope of our exercise is not to go in to specifics like that. For instance, checking WAEC or Universities are confidential areas. We have to ask for documents. If you say you have a Bachelors degree, we would like to see it. It will be the responsibility of the ministry at a later date to check with the relevant authorities whether these teachers have the requisite qualifications. We will be stretched too much if we are to go in to specifics.

 

ABU SHAW: What about the Anti Corruption Commission ACC. Do you have any contact with them? Do you have any mechanism in place to forward fraudulent persons to the ACC for further investigations?

MUNIRU KAWA: When we did the civil service, we thought it wise to work in collaboration with the ACC. And at the initial stage, they helped us to develop strategies. We intend to collaborate with them. But we have to be very careful not to cross the line. Our mandate is to go out in the fields and collect the data to match it with the available teachers. If we observe or get an intelligence report of any fraud, our responsibility is to report. But then the agency will take the report to investigate along side the Ministry of Education.

 

ABU SHAW: Who do you report to directly after your findings?

MUNIRU KAWA: We have reporting officials who report directly to the Director of Public Service and he is also working with the task force and other stakeholders.

 

ABU SHAW: Finally, let us come to our editorial today about the teachersí strike. You expressed displeasure about us quoting sources from TRMIP. Whatís your view on that?

MUNIRU KAWA: Well, we talk to the press and it helps us to take messages out there to all teachers in the country and we would like to inform them that the verification is very imminent and we would like every teacher to be in his/her school when we get there. There may be extreme circumstances where a teacher cannot be there, you will provide reasons why you were not there. But we have to be careful when we give out information and we are very cautious with that. So we are not preview with the kind of information you published. We do not know where you got the information from. We are clear about that.  We are just service providers. They gave us a job to do and then we report. Government must take the praise. Government is our masters.

 

ABU SHAW: Thank you once more Mr. Kawa for the audience.

MUNIRU KAWA: Thank you too.

 


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