At least 457,595 public sector workers have so far complied with a directive from the government to biometrically update their data with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
However, 26,589 public service workers are yet to comply with the directive after the biometric registration of public sector workers began in 2015.
Following from their failure to adhere to the directive, 26,589 public workers would not be paid this month, the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD), Mr Seidu Kotomah, has said.
But the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) warns of massive labour unrest if the Ministry of Finance goes ahead to instruct the CAGD to delete the names of about 13,000 of its members from the payroll starting this month.
The association, therefore, appealed to the ministry to suspend its intended action and to extend its deadline from April to May 2017 to enable it to get its members in the hinterlands, whose names were not in the SSNIT biometric register, to do so.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, Mr Kotomah said the CAGD was complying with the directive from the Ministry of Finance, directing the department to suspend the payment of salaries of the affected public sector workers.
Nonetheless, the Controller and Accountant-General says the issues being raised by the affected public servants, including teachers, were not valid.
“They have no cause to complain. They simply have to comply with the directive and their salaries will be paid accordingly,” Mr Kotomah indicated.
According to him, the new directive was in the interest of the affected public servants because their failure to register biometrically would affect their pension benefits.
“The SSNIT has upgraded its system, and we expect public sector workers to do same. Failure to do so means their records will not be upgraded at SSNIT and that will negatively affect them when they go on retirement,” Mr Kotomah stressed.
He consequently pleaded with the affected public sector workers to visit SSNIT offices to upgrade their records biometrically.
A statement by the Ministry of Finance last week said the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, had on February 10, 2017, requested the CAGD to inform all public servants about the government mechanised payroll system for those who had not registered on the new SSNIT biometric system to do so by the end of February 2017.
“This directive will come into effect on the April 2017 payroll. Consequently, those not registered with the SSNIT, as directed shall be treated as “ghosts” going forward and shall as such be removed from the payroll for April 2017.”
“These two directives, resulting in the identification of close to 50,000 ‘ghost’ names on the payroll and Pensions Registry, are expected to save the country some GH¢35 million in payroll cost on a monthly basis or a total of over GH¢250 million in 2017 alone,” it pointed out.
Head of Payroll
Explaining further, the Head of Payroll Department of the CAGD, Mr George Kofi Baah, said there were more than 457,595 public sector workers who had registered biometrically with SSNIT but their data was not with the CAGD because they were with other public sector agencies, as well as on the CAP 30 scheme.
“The payroll cycle is closed. The affected workers cannot access their salaries this month.
“Those who comply on time before the next payroll cycle opens will receive their April arrears,” Mr Baah assured.
Making the case for the extension of the deadline for the biometric registration, the President of the NAGRAT, Mr Christian Addai-Poku, further requested to have the list of its members who were affected to enable the union to get them to register with the SSNIT.
He said it was wrong for the CAGD, without sensitising workers to the intended action, to issue such a directive at a short notice.
“We think that is wrong. We should have been educated and possibly, the CAGD should have published the names of the affected workers,” he said, explaining that the Controller did not give workers any deadline notification.
He said since 2015 when the exercise began, teachers were contacted individually through text messages and telephone calls by SSNIT to get registered, while in some cases, SSNIT moved to some schools to register the teachers there.
Mr Addai-Poku believed that there were still a number of teachers in the rural areas and the hinterland who were not captured in the biometric registration exercise, describing it as unfair for CAGD to insist on deleting names simply because they could not register in the biometric exercise.
He explained that even though the intention to delete ‘ghost’ names was something everybody supported, that should not be done to the detriment of people who had genuinely worked and deserved to be paid.
Get registered now
However, the General Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Mr David Ofori Acheampong, encouraged teachers who were affected to go out immediately to get registered.
He said GNAT last week sent reminders to teachers in the field, asking those who did the biometric registration but had not submitted all that was required to do so immediately and those who had not done it to move to the nearest SSNIT offices to do so.
Mr Acheampong explained that it was an exercise by the government to clear the payroll of ’ghost’ names, adding that it was an exercise everybody believed was right and needed to be done.
He said a number of negotiations were going on behind the scene to ensure that those affected could easily walk in to get the anomalies rectified anytime they were able to register.
Mr Acheampong said: “Even though as employees, we have rights, the employer also has certain rights”, and insisted that if the employer wanted the employee to do something, it was only in order that they did so.
He said the exercise had been ongoing for the past two years and the assumption was that those who had not yet registered with SSNIT were the ‘ghost’ names.
Mr Acheampong said the good news was that out of the more than 250,000 teachers, only 13,000 were yet to go through the registration and encouraged them to try and do so “so that we can put it behind us.”
A source at the GES headquarters confirmed the directive and said the Director-General of the GES, Mr Jacob M. Kor, had directed that an immediate memo be prepared to be distributed to all regional and district directors of education.
It said it was clear that the number of workers affected by the directive as given by the CAGD might not be accurate and gave an instance where the names of three workers of the GES headquarters, had been included although they had biometrically updated their records with SSNIT.
The source believed that there were many on the list, which had been put out there, who had done the biometric registration and suggested that a second look be taken at the list.
It said as it stood, all the affected persons would not receive their April salary, “and that is why the Director-General wants the affected persons to know early enough.”