Phantom Fonctionaires

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2006 at 2:27 am

Been on vacation… but I came across this interesting tidbit, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. According to this little snippet in a South African news website, Niger has been paying dead or retired civil servants – phantom fonctionaires if you will – for several years, to the tune of $9 million/year.

As I mentioned, this doesn’t surprise me in the least, having spent time working with the civil service and watching them in action in Niger. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very decent, honest, earnestly hardworking people trying to better their own country. However, the people who control the purse strings at the local level have undoubtedly been working at creative accounting for years.

I’m surprised this is coming to light now, after all the 2005 scrutiny on African Poverty Relief and especially debt relief. You’d think the Niger government would have been overseen when they were working up their numbers.

Each country getting aid from the World Bank/IMF organizations puts together a Poverty Reduction Strategy plan. There is a 1600 page, two volume set of books (which I happpen to own) that spells out everything anyone in a developing country would need to know about development economics and poverty relief.

What is striking to me, in a bittersweet way, is the trust that the IMF/WB puts in the countries for their information. I appreciate that Niger had earned that trust – their numbers, as far as having 40,000 civil servants on payroll instead of 33,000 – but this does indeed set Niger back a li ttle bit in the international reputation department.

But unfortunately, being at the end of the UN Human Development Index… there is nowhere else to go for Niger but up in that department.


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