RABAT - The Moroccan government says it is determined to crack down on "ghost workers" who pack the state's payroll but perform no duties.
The government, as the number one employer in Morocco, revealed recently that hundreds of phantom civil servants are registered on its payroll.
"The falsification of official employment documents is common in several ministerial departments," says Mohammed Benkhira, an official at the Rabat-based treasury. He blames lack of control and corruption among senior officials.
"Some of these ghost employees are paid salaries because of their relationship to the head of the department in which they are illegally enrolled," Mr. Benkhira disclosed to a local wide-circulation daily.
The Moroccan government, headed by Socialist Prime Minister, Mr. Abderrahmane Youssoufi, promised to stop the abuse which is costly to the state. But the authorities said there would not be a witch-hunt. "We will clean up the situation in line with existing regulations," the government spokesman said.
Civil servants soak up one third of the government's annual budget. The campaign against ghost workers is expected to save the millions of dollars the country needs to curb genuine unemployment that hits more than 19 percent of the country's 29 million people.
The communication department was the first targeted area. The department announced recently the suspension of several of its officials involved in hiring ghost workers.
The suspension will stay in force until a government committee investigates scores of ghost positions discovered at the department.
The issue came to light when the head of the ministry's staff department committed suicide after being found guilty of fraud.
Before his suicide, the official left a lengthy letter to the public prosecutor, accusing other senior officials of hiring ghost workers.
The authorities have arrested a senior official at the city hall of Safi, an Atlantic coast town 350 km south of Rabat. The official had deposited with the town's authorities phony official documents hiring more than twenty people.
The officials had benefited for more than two years from salaries paid to these invisible civil servants.
Weeding out ghost workers is part of a strategy to pare public spending and operate a more rigorous budget, in accordance with the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Moroccan employment minister Abbas Al-Fassi, who was appointed last week as part of a reshuffle in government, told the Moroccan TV channel 2M that he will cut high salaries and eradicate undeserved privileges. "This is one way of saving some money for the employment of jobless youth," he said.
There is a wide gap in salaries in Morocco, worsening social injustice and causing friction between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. A senior official can get up to $6000 a month plus other privileges like free housing, fuel and phone compensations. A low-grade worker cannot expect more than $150 a month.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )