DR Congo Exposes Tens of Thousands of Ghost Workers Across Government Ministries

Auditors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have uncovered a massive public payroll fraud, involving tens of thousands of ghost workers across government ministries, costing the public purse over US$800 million annually, according to a statement from the General Inspectorate of Finance.

Vue KinshasaCongo’s capital Kinshaha. (Photo: Garcia-Pavilion, Wikimedia, License)The audit found that 145,604 civil servants are paid based on fabricated payroll identification numbers, while 53,328 have more than one identification number and therefore receive multiple salaries. In addition, 43,725 officials are paid without being on the staff list of ministries that are supposed to employ them.

The fraud was orchestrated by 961 payroll officers, who themselves were fraudulently paid salaries across multiple government departments, with some appearing on more than 15 payrolls.

"The 961 agents in charge of payroll processing involved in a mafia network will be handed over to judicial authorities," the statement said.

The scale of the fraud amounts to around 8% of Congo's state budget, which stood at $9.94 billion in 2022.

Payroll fraud is common in Congo, where public workers often go unpaid for months due to strained resources. For example, in September 2019, Congolese authorities deactivated nearly 6,000 accounts regularly supplied with salaries despite belonging to no one, causing an annual loss of as much as $6 million.

A similar fraud was recently exposed in Zambia, where auditors discovered that between 2017 and 2021, $45 million in salaries were paid to 9,800 non-existent individuals.

Despite having the world's richest mineral deposits, Congo remains one of the world's poorest countries, with a GDP per capita of less than 1% of that of the United States.