Kurdish government introduces biometric payroll system to reduce fraud

The administration now has reliable statistics about the number of people on its payroll for the first time.

Members of the security services and Peshmerga military have been ordered to register under the Iraqi Kurdish government’s new biometric-based payroll system or risk not being paid their salaries.

Most civil servants have so far signed up to the scheme, which was rolled out in a bid to increase transparency and reduce corruption by removing ghost workers and people receiving more than one wage after falsifying their personnel or payroll records. The process for registering civil servants started on 10 October 2016 and was completed by 10 February, but will continue for the Peshmerga until further notice.

So far about 850,000 out of a total 1.4 million official workers have registered. The aim is to reduce the amount of money paid out to fraudulent accounts as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spends an estimated 70% of its overstretched annual budget of wages.

Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told a recent cabinet meeting: “For the first time, we have reliable statistics about the number of people on the government payroll, which will be the base for our future decisions.”

The new payroll system uses fingerprint recognition technology to identify users and authorise the payment of their wages to a registered bank account. Its introduction is part of wider austerity measures that the KRG has so far struggled to implement along with the World Bank, with the aim of tackling an ongoing financial crisis that has gripped the economy since early 2014. The economic reforms have caused outrage across the region, leading to a number of riots and strikes.