A ghost worker is someone recorded on the payroll system, but who does not work for the organisation. The ghost worker can be a real person, who with or without their knowledge, is placed on the payroll, or a fictitious person invented by a dishonest staff. They are on the government payroll but do not work for the government.
Of course, this impacts the credibility of the government and ultimately have adverse impacts on economic growth. More so, it reduces the effectiveness of public spending as funds are misdirected.
Some control measures can discourage and limit opportunities for ghost workers. These control measures include maintaining payroll records and personnel records, substantive reviews of payroll at multiple levels can go a long way. Also, as a requirement, documentation and authorization from senior management before an employee can be added to the payroll should be done and separation of duties of maintaining payroll records and personnel records.
While these measures might be appropriate, structural employment measures are necessary for a sustainable workforce. For example, government can conduct regular yearly reviews to identify over or understaffed departments in the public sector and also improve the link between payroll and personnel systems, which can reduce the occurrence of ghost workers.