A probe into policing in the troubled new nation of South Sudan has uncovered 11,000 fake names on the payroll.
“A further 16,000 names were being investigated, meaning half the force on the payroll may be fictitious,” Interior Minister Aleu Ayeny Aleu told reporters on Tuesday.
The scam has enabled corrupt officials to pocket their salaries, he said.
“We were able to identify 11,000 in our pay list which we have decided to knock out,” Aleu said, in his first public address since taking office this month.
South Sudan’s police force was thought initially to total 52,000 people, police spokesman James Monday said.
“When the 16,000 names were checked in the database and the payroll list they do not match,” Monday said. “We are yet to verify exactly where all the owners of these names are.”
He added that so far, 25,778 officers have been confirmed as real. The minister said the clean-out would save the government $9 million a month.
The discovery follows United Nations-backed efforts to turn the police into a more professional force, including weeding out rogue officers and clamping down on corruption.
The police force in South Sudan is made up of former rebels who fought Sudanese forces in the 1983-2005 civil war.
The nation won independence in July 2011 but is still reeling from the impact of decades of war with Khartoum and is still suffering from rampant insecurity.