Windhoek-The Namibian police have arrested 19 teachers in the Zambezi Region, some of whom are believed to be ‘ghost teachers’, for allegedly defrauding the government of N$10 million.
The 19 teachers arrested, of the initial 22 suspects, stand accused of fraud and money laundering, after they allegedly swindled the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture between 2011 and 2016.
While some of the teachers are still in the employ of the ministry, the police said others have long since resigned from government employ, but remained on the government payroll drawing a monthly salary as if fully employed teachers. There were also teachers who worked on a contract basis, but remained on the ministry’s payroll after their contracts lapsed.
Others are believed to have been getting salaries not in the range of their agreed notch. For instance, a secretary was receiving a teacher’s salary, while an ordinary teacher received the salary of the head of department.
Zambezi’s acting police regional commander Deputy Commissioner Julia Sakuwa told New Era yesterday that the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture only detected the fraud recently when it conducted a financial audit in the region.
“The ministry undertook an audit and realised that N$10 million was missing. We went into their bank accounts and saw how money was transferred. We went on to investigate and then arrested them,” Sakuwa said.
Sakuwa said the teachers in question have been charged with fraud and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).
The police crime investigations coordinator for Zambezi, Deputy Commissioner Evans Simasiku, said the police were on the hunt for three other teachers suspected of being involved in the fraud. The 19 suspects, five women and 14 men, are all set to appear in court today.
Some of the teachers, who had already resigned from the public service, were said to have been living a good life, driving luxury cars and spending lavishly, especially on weekends for leisure purposes with family members.
Most of the teachers’ salaries were apparently also inflated and did not correspond to government public service remuneration packages.
Some of the suspects apparently claimed subsistence and travel allowances for trips they never undertook, whereas others were fraudulently paid bush allowances.
Sakuwa said the ministry opened the case with the police in August and this subsequently led to the mass arrests.
She revealed that the main suspect who facilitated the transactions with all his accomplices was working at the payroll office of the education ministry in Katima Mulilo. He is among four suspects not yet apprehended.
“They are all teachers in various schools here in Zambezi. There was someone at the payroll office who was paying them these salaries. He has since resigned. We are still searching for the remaining four.
“Some of them have switched off their phones and others are not at their duty stations or residence but we are following them. It’s not good to defraud the government like that – if government goes down then we all go down,” she said.
Sakuwa, however, said the investigation was made easier by the fact that the ministry handed over the names and bank statements of the suspects who had received illicit salaries over the years.
“Whoever is paid or was paid that money, it will be better for him to be a whistleblower to the law enforcement agencies, [to say] that ‘such and such a person is paying me money, which I am not supposed to be paid’… We are not going to sleep. We will uproot,” this trend and bring it to light, Simasiku warned.