By Mohammed Hadi
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) newly-introduced biometric system, which aims to digitize the data of its more than 1.3 million civil servants is expected to uncover nearly 33,000 irregular employees who could either be ghost or double salary employees, according to a member of the commission who also warned that employees will lose their job if they fail to register.
The biometric registration process for government civil servants ended in the beginning of March 2017 with 988,026 employees having registered in the system.
Registration for military personnel has now begun and will continue until May 1. Some 230,000 service personnel are expected to register. They comprise all security and police forces including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) 70th Military Unit, Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) 80th Military Unit.
These units are in the midst of the registration process, a member of the biometric system’s commission told Rudaw on condition of anonymity.
The KRG has 1,378,000 employees, of whom one hundred thousand are college and university students who receive funds from the government but are not supposed to register in the system, according to data obtained from the biometric system’s registration committee.
Of the overall number of people receiving salaries from the government, 229,000 are pensioners, 91,000 are families of martyrs, 190,000 are disabled or those receiving assistance under the social care system, 476,000 are civil servants, and 292,000 are military personnel. This is according to the data obtained from the biometric registration commission.
The commission member who spoke to Rudaw also revealed that nearly 46,000 people on the payroll have not yet registered in the biometric system.
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Mohammed Hawdiani told Rudaw that the number of people on his ministry’s payroll is 225,000, of whom 111,000 are disabled, 84,000 are under the social care system, 23,000 are special payment beneficiaries, and 6,500 are ministerial staff.
The Ministry has already reexamined everyone on its disability payroll in order to eliminate financial irregularities.
“In the reexamination process for the disabled, 20,000 of them didn’t show up. It is highly likely they feared they might not pass the reexamination or were not disabled at all,” Hawdiani said.
He said his ministry was committed to registering under the government’s biometric system. “All our employees participated in the process. There were no shadow employees. In the past, we had 18,000 ghost employees whom we removed from our pay roll before the biometric registration was introduced. Nearly 1,000 disabled people on our pay roll in different towns didn’t register, though.”
Hawdiani also said that they have cut salaries of people whose wages were between 30,000 Iraqi Dinars (IQD) and 1 million IQD, saving the government 2 billion IQD monthly.
The majority of employees at the Ministry of Education have registered, the source at the biometric commission detailed. “The Ministry of Education has 168,000 employees; 165,000 have registered in the system. Most of the remaining 3,000 are on unpaid leave.”
Many of the government’s civil servants living in the diaspora, especially pensioners, returned to the Kurdistan Region to take part in the biometric registration process. However, some of them have not yet done so.
Those who have not yet registered in the system have a deadline of May 15, 2017 to do so, alongside the military personnel. Employees who fail to register will not get paid, regardless of their position in the government.
The system exposes those who get their salaries illegally or receive multiple salaries.
“Our prediction is that nearly 33,000 employees will be removed from the government’s pay roll,” the biometric commission member detailed. “That is a reduction of 2.5 to 3 percent in government-paid personnel.”
Based on these figures, the biometric system can save the government more than 25 billion IQD per month given an estimated average wage of 835,000 IQD. This amount can pay for the employees of 5 small ministries. It is also a bigger amount than the full salaries of the Ministry of Agriculture (12 billion IQD), Ministry of Justice (3.7 billion IQD), Ministry of Planning (870 million IQD), and Ministry of Natural Resources (nearly 2.5 billion IQD).
More savings are expected to be found as the security services complete their biometric registration.
“There were people who retired at an early age as high ranking military officials. There was someone who was only 24, yet was retired as lieutenant general. There were also people who were 19 and were retired as high ranking military officials,” the biometric commission member said. “There were 40 to 50 cases of this sort.”