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Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 12:10 UK

S Leone on 'ghost teacher' hunt

Pupils at a school in Sierra Leone (Photo sent in by BBC News website reader Warren Swords)
Mr Bah has been touring schools to count the teachers

Sierra Leone's education minister says he has discovered dozens of non-existent "ghost teachers" invented by officials to embezzle money.

Minkailu Bah told the BBC that many of the 33,000 teachers receiving salaries existed only on paper.

The embezzlement amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

Mr Bah is part of a government headed by President Ernest Bai Koroma, who came to power last year promising to vigorously tackle corruption.

'Ran away'

Mr Bah said his investigations since coming into office uncovered a very different picture from the one painted by his officials.

There is a connivance between my ministry and the accountant general's office
Education Minister Minkailu Bah

"I started going on an exercise where we monitor schools and see what is happening there," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

On a tour of one district, Mr Bah said he personally found five schools with 68 non-existent teachers.

"In another area, a primary school had 39 teachers and [when] a man came to verify, he could not come with teachers, [and] he ran away and was captured by the police," he said.

He said that many schools which receive subsidies that were on the ministry's books were also "ghost schools".

"There is a connivance between my ministry and the accountant general's office," he said.

"But we are going to unearth these malpractices and take serious action against them."

Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, is recovering from a decade of brutal war that ended in 2001.


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