South Sudan police half 'fake'

Juba - A probe into policing in the troubled new nation of South Sudan has uncovered 11 000 fake names on the payroll, an official said on Tuesday, offering some explanation into rising crime.

Worse still, Interior Minister Aleu Ayeny Aleu told reporters, a further 16 000 names were being investigated, meaning half the force on the payroll may be fictitious.

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. "And we are investigating 16 000 more names."

South Sudan's police force - made up of former rebels who fought Sudanese forces in the brutal 1983-2005 civil war - was thought initially to total some 52 000 men and women, police spokesperson James Monday said.

"When the 16 000 names were checked in the database and the pay roll 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 $9m a month.

The discovery follows United Nations-backed efforts to turn the ex-rebel-turned police into a more professional force, including weeding out rogue officers and clamping down on corruption.

The fledgling 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.

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