Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Civil servants amongst “Ghost employees” identified in the Covid-19 payroll

The government through the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the ministry of Finance and Economic Development has identified atleast 380 civil servants whose name appeared amongst those who seek wage relief from the government during the month of April.

Grace Muzila – Secretary for Development and Budget said this week that an assessment done by BURS established that some government employees also claimed and benefited from the wage subsidy.

“We have written to their Permanent Secretaries to get explanation from them”, Muzila said.

While she could not commit on whether the government will take any punitive action against the identified civil servants, Muzila said they have also identified some private companies which also submitted claims for “ghost” employees.

“Those companies have to return the money”, Muzila said.

According to Muzila the wage subsidy applications have since dropped from 15 918 companies in April to 13 193 for the month of May. This resulted in the amount of money requested dropping from P269 million to P212 million during the period under reviews.

The latest upadate come at a time when the Botswana government has been pushing its fiscal limits with series of concessions that are aimed at stabilizing the economy from adverse effects caused by some measures put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Amongst the concessions came through the Finance ministry, which has made provisions for taxpayers to defer part of their tax payments.

Economic pundits however maintain that the decision will further supress Botswana’s recently revised revenue forecasts. Even before Covid-19, Botswana has been running budget deficits since 2017/2018, with that year’s deficit recorded at P1.9 billion. In April 2020, the minister resposble for finance Thapelo Matsheka reduced the country’s forecasted revenue for the 2020/21 financial year from P62.4 billion to P48.8 billion. At the same time, he amended the Income Tax Act to allow for deferment of paying taxes for individuals and companies. The amendment forms part of the Emergency Powers Covid-19 Regulations, which were amended and passed by parliament in early April 2020.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.