GOVERNANCE activist Pamela Chisanga has described ZESCO’s physical employee verification exercise as strange, saying people responsible for including ghost workers on the company’s payroll must be dealt with according to the law.

ZESCO Limited has announced that it will conduct a Physical Employee Verification Exercise which is an internal audit of assets and human resources to provide autonomous assurance that the company’s risk management, governance and internal control processes are operating effectively.

But in an interview, Chisanga questioned the timing of the audit.

She added that ZESCO would have been able to identify ghost workers if they had controls in terms of their management processes.

“It is rather unfortunate that we have a parastatal like ZESCO talking about doing an audit of their staff now when this ideally should be something that the organization should have been doing regularly. So in fact, if they have everything in place, there is no need of even doing an HR audit because they would have information at their fingertips for all the staff that are employed by ZESCO. You begin to ask basic questions in terms of their accountability processes, their controls within the organization and how they are administered. When they are doing payroll obviously there are a lot of things and it is not only about this person. They document who is on contract, who has been dismissed, who is due what kind of payments. So it is through those monthly processes, the controls that they have in place that they would have been able to pick up if they had ghost workers or not,” Chisanga said.

“So what this simply tells us is that ZESCO has had no controls in terms of their management processes, whether it is HR or Finance because they have been paying people that are not employed. They should have records on those employed and when the person has left, HR should be able to produce that information every time they are doing the payroll. They are supposed to know who is still employed by the company so that those people are paid. When the person has left the company, let the dues be paid and who is on disciplinary action. All that information is supposed to be availed to the finance department by HR who conducts these checks every month to be able to input into payroll. So it is a bit strange that they have to go around looking for employees for a company like ZESCO that employs high calibre staff that should be able to run these controls without difficulties.”

Chisanga said employees must know that regardless of which political party was in power, they should not allow themselves to be used by politicians

“What this tells you is that unfortunately, we have gotten to a situation where even professionals are compromised and will not adhere to common practice to control what has been put in place. They disregard company policy and do things out of policies. This is what it simply tells you. And I think this should be a lesson for us as Zambians and even people that get into these companies, that regardless of which political party comes into power, they should not allow themselves to bend and to be used by politicians because unfortunately, they will have to pay and suffer the consequences. If there is any wrongdoing, as Zambians I think we should call for them to be dealt with according to the law,” she stated.

Chisanga further said it did not appear that ZESCO management had been conducting proper oversight.

“We cannot allow a situation where people are used and manipulated by politicians and they sit on their jobs. We did not hear anybody in ZESCO complaining about ghost workers but suddenly we are hearing voice notes that this and that happened. Where were all these people when all these things were happening? Why did they not come out? Surely if enough people came out, Zambians are not foolish. We would have rallied behind them but most people become complicit and albeit criminality which we have seen was actually happening under the previous regime,” said Chisanga.

“That is criminal, if you are employing people who are not working but are being paid money, it is criminality. So I think in terms of management, in terms of controls it does appear that these were not being implemented and there was no proper management oversight. There was no one to address the issue of ghost workers on their payroll. ZESCO is a large entity, it is not acceptable to have ghost workers, but if you look at ZESCO we know they recruit professionals and you would think that these professionals would know how to run these basic systems and how to handle basic controls to guard against things like ghost workers.”