By Moki Edwin Kindzeka
Yaounde — Cameroon has started cleaning its payroll of so-called "ghost workers" who are believed to cost the country $12 million every month. But the effort appears to also have impacted legitimate government workers - especially those in the military - who say they are not getting paid.
At a bank in Cameroon's capital. Yaounde, three soldiers quarreled with a cashier. They complained that they have not been receiving all of their salary for a few months. One of the soldiers, Didier Manda, told VOA that his salary had been reduced from about $500 to $380 per month and he can no longer provide all of his family's needs.
He said it has been exactly three months without all of his salary and asked how he and his family can survive? It is not normal, he said, adding that he needs all of his money.
Another soldier, Fopa Nestor, who had taken a loan from his bank said what he earned for the month of December, 2013 was just enough to pay back the loan, so his monthly take home pay came up short. It is unthinkable that somebody should work and not be paid as agreed to, he added.
Last November, Cameroon announced that it was intensifying efforts to modernize its public service and rid it of people who rob the state by receiving undue benefits.
Officials of the country's Ministry of Finance discovered that many workers submitted fake birth certificates to get child benefits. Some continued to collect allowances paid to appointed officials even when they no longer had positions of responsibility. Officials said claims were being made for civil servants who had moved abroad or who had died.
Cameroon's minister of finance, Alamine Ousmane Mey, told VOA that the civil servants who saw a reduction in their salaries or found out that payments had been suspended, may have been those stealing from the state and there is now a management system that detects such illegal payments.
"The different advantages you get is automatically set in the system. It is not more manual, and doing it like this helps clean the payroll and those who unduly benefited from some advantages will be prevented from getting it any more," said Mey.
The minister said the military has been feeling the pinch this month because it has come under scrutiny. However, he assured those whose salaries were unjustly reduced or not paid that they could file complaints for corrections to be made.
"We will address the short comings with regards to their situation. This will help us establish those who deserve the payment and those who unfortunately did not," stated Mey.
The government has not officially announced how much the fake employees were costing the government. But the Yaounde based non-governmental organization, Dynamique Citoyenne, that collaborates with the Cameroonian government in addressing governing issues, said $12 million may now be saved every month.
The public has had mixed reactions to the effort to get rid of the ghost workers.
University graduate, Ayeni Paul, who is a butcher in Yaounde, told VOA that he has hopes of a higher paying government job since huge sums of money are now being saved.
"People fake documents to claim more salaries. There are many people not only in the military. They [the government] should go to all levels and check. They should continue with their efforts to fight corruption," said Paul.
Wirkom Martin, 23, a college student, said he has no confidence in the reforms because Cameroonians are very corrupt.
Cameroon has been classified by Transparency International on two occasions as the most corrupt country in the world.