Uganda halts payments over 'ghost pensioners'

A woman holding Ugandan shilling notes in Kampala, May 2011 Many elderly Ugandans rely on their monthly pension to survive

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More than 60,000 retired Ugandan teachers, civil servants and soldiers have had their payments halted after an audit exposed "ghost pensioners".

Pensioners have not received their September payment and treasury officials say it may be another two weeks before they do.

The recent investigation found hundreds of pension payments were being made every month to non-existent people.

But pensioners fear the clean-up of the pension payroll may take much longer.

The BBC's Ignatius Bahizi in the capital, Kampala, says the failure to pay September's pension is already making life difficult for thousands of people relying on the monthly money to buy food essentials and medication.

According to Uganda's private Daily Monitor newspaper, an audit exposed how the pension list included names that appear more than once and people with different names but the same bank account number.

Some names on the pensions payroll were revealed to be still in service and not retired, the paper says.

Our correspondent says this is the latest move by the treasury to crack down on ghost workers, a problem that cuts across all public sectors.

A few years ago, the system for paying salaries in the army - one of the worst offenders - was overhauled and all soldiers are now paid via bank accounts.

This year the teaching profession was audited to weed out non-existent workers.

However, this led to complaints when some genuine teachers did not receive their salaries for up to six month, our reporter says.

Margaret Rwabushaija from the Uganda National Teachers' Union has told the BBC that some of the teachers affected by the payroll clean-up have yet to receive their money.

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