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The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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The Congolese administration is often depicted as a basket case of corruption and malpractice. However, not much has been written from an empirical perspective on the underlying practices of bureaucratic governance at the central level. This paper aims to fill this gap by focusing on the management of human resources and the public wage system. It provides an in-depth account of how the expenditure chain functions with wage payment. It considers the political and financial stakes around the wage bill, particularly: political patronage through recruitment; clientelist arrangements within payroll management; and ghost workers, leakages and remunerations embezzlement.
The political
economy of human
resource and payroll
management in the
Democratic Republic
of the Congo
Working paper 71
Stylianos Moshonas
March 2019
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Cover photo: Territorial Administrator of Lukolela,
De mo cr atic Repu blic of Con go . Photo by Ol livier
Girard/CIFOR (CC BY-NC -N D 2.0).
Written by
Stylianos Moshonas
About us
The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) is a global research
programme exploring basic services, and social protection in fragile and
conict-affected situations. Funded by UK Aid from the UK Government (DFID),
with complementary funding from Iri sh Aid and the European Commission
(EC), SLRC was established in 2011 with the aim of strengthening the
evidence base and informing policy and practice around livelihoods and
services in conict.
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is the lead organisation. SLRC
partners include: Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), Feinstein International
Center (FIC, Tufts University), Focus1000, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation
Unit (AREU), Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Wageningen
University (WUR), Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR), Busara
Center for Behavioral Economics, Nepal Institute for Social and Environmental
Research (NISER), Narrate, Social Scientists’ Association of Sri Lanka (SSA),
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Women and Rural Development
Network (WORUDET), Claremont Graduate University (CGU), Institute of
Development Policy (IOB, University of Antwerp) and the International Institute of
Social Studies (ISS, Erasmus University of Rotterdam).
SLRC’s research can be separated into two phases. Our rst phase of
research (2011 - 2017) was based on three research questions, developed
over the course of an intensive one-year inception phase:
State legitimacy: experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state
and local governance in conict-affected situations
St ate capacity: building effective st ates that deliver servic es and social
protection in conict-affected situations
Livelihood trajectories and economic activity under conict
Guided by our original research questions on state legitimacy, state capacity,
and livelihoods, the second phase of SLRC research (2017-2019) delves
into questions that still remain, organised into three themes of research. In
addition to these themes, SLRC II also has a programme component exploring
power and everyday politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). For
more information on our work, visit:
Research for this paper was made possible by the Secure
Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC), based at the
Overseas Development Institute (ODI), through funding
provided by the United Kingdom’s Department for
International Development (DFID). The author would like
to thank Tom De Herdt, Kristof Titeca, Benjamin Rubbers,
Cyril Brandt, Egle Cesnulyte, Albert Malukisa and Claude
Iguma for comments on earlier versions of this paper.
The paper has also beneted from discussions with the
participants of the panel ‘Taking rules seriously: between
formality and informality in African bureaucracies’ at the
ECAS conference in Basel (June 2017) as well as the
participants of the stream ‘The everyday in DR Congo’ at
the ASAUK conference in Birmingham (September 2018).
and glossary
CDF Congolese Franc
CSR Civil Service Reform
DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo
HR Human resourc e
IMF International Monetary Fund
MoB Ministry of Budget
MoF Ministry of Finance
MoH Ministry of Health
MPS Ministry of Public Service
NU Nouvelles Unité s
PPRD Parti du Peuple pour Reconstruction et la Démocratie
PTS Procedure Transitoire Simpliée
SYGECPAF Système de Gestion Centralisé de la Paie des Agents et Fonctionnaires
Executive summary v
Research questions v
Methods and concepts v
Main ndings v
Implications v
1 Introduction 1
2 The Congolese administration – a structural view 3
2.1 The case for studying payroll management in the DRC 4
3 Ofcial procedures and practical arrangements in HR and payroll
management 6
3.1 Patronage-based recruitment in the civil service 9
4 The political economy of payroll management 11
4.1 Clientelist arrangements in payroll management 11
4.2 The political economy of ghost workers 13
4.3 The ambivalent role of the Payroll Department 14
4.4 The scope of large-scale, organised payroll fraud 14
5 Conclusion 17
Table 1: The division of labour across
institutions within the expenditure chain
with regards to remuneration 7
Research questions
The Congolese administration is often depicted as a
basket case of corruption and malpractice. However, not
much has been written from an empirical perspective
on the underlying practices of bureaucratic governance
at the central level. This paper aims to ll this gap by
focusing on the management of human resources and
the public wage system. Since 2007, the number of
public sector workers featuring on the state’s payroll
has expanded from 600,000 to 1,300,000 entries,
and the wage bill absorbs between one third and
two f ths of the domestic budget. At the same t ime,
human res ourc e and pay roll management is aficted
by several problems: patronage-based recruitment is
widespread; the payroll is highly fragmented and opaque;
substantial swathes of the civil service go unpaid;
and ghost workers, double dipping, and leakages and
remunerations embezzlement occur on a large scale.
While ofcial legislation surrounding human resource and
payroll management divides the labour across different
institutions – particularly the Ministry of Public Service
and the Ministry of Budget – in practice, formal rules
are only followed loosely, and due procedure violations
common. Yet at the same time, despi te the severe aw s
of the system, a degree of functionality remains intact,
insofar as hundreds of thousands of civil servants receive
their remuneration each month. The key issue explored in
this paper consists in outlining and analysing the practical
arrangements through which human resources and the
payroll are managed.
Methods and concepts
Whilst building on doctoral research undertaken in 2010-
2011, ndings in this paper are based on eld research
conducted between March-April 2016, April-September
2017 and May-July 2018. This research looked at
central government dynamics surrounding payroll
management and ongoing civil service reforms, mainly
through qualitative methods including organisational
ethnography. The paper provides an in-depth account
of how the expenditure chain functions with wage
payment. It consider s the political and nancial stakes
around the wage bill, particularly: political patronage
through recruitment; clientelist arrangements within
payroll management; and ghost workers, leakages and
remunerations embezzlement. In this paper, patronage
is dened as the use of state resources for the provision
of jobs and services for groups of supporters, and
clientelism as involving inter-individual relations within
hierarchical networks. While empirically these two
practices are intertwined, we have kept them analytically
separate here as their implications can be different.
Main ndings
The problems that beset human resource and payroll
management arise out of an incongruity between
ofcial rules and regulations, and the underlying
political, social and economic realities that underpin
governance in the public sector. In the DRC, the public
sector occupies a peculiar position: it is the main
provider of formal employment; a livelihood source
for its agents; a major locale structuring political
mobilisation; and the prime driver of accumulation in a
setting where the formal economy remains embryonic.
As such, the practices of patronage, clientelism and
large-scale payroll fraud should be understood as the
means by which the gap between ofcial legislation
and the pressures surrounding the public sector are
reconciled. This paper illustrates this by explaining 1)
how patronage-based recruitment in the civil service
helps to build and service political constituencies,
particularly in electoral periods; 2) how clientelist
arrangements are widely prevalent within payroll
management, especially to negotiate payroll inclusion;
and 3) how the aws of the ins titutional set-up
underpinning payroll management invite larger abuses,
including large-scale payroll fraud.
While civil service reform initiatives have been
ongoing in the DRC the last 15 years, including
payroll reforms, they have tended to be donor-
Executive summary
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
driven, and positioned under the Ministry of
Public Service’s leadership. However, payroll
management, for the most part, is under the Ministry
of Budget’s jurisdiction, in particular, the Payroll
Department. Within this sector, major policies have
been introduced over the last decade – such as
the computerisation of payroll management and
bancarisation reform (payment of civil service
remunerations through the commercial banking
sector) – with virtually no donor involvement. While
the government has hailed these initiatives as a
resounding success (and they have indeed enabled
partial improvements), the initiatives have not
eradicated long-standing issues aficting payroll
management, rather displaced their political
economy. To overcome inter-institutional collective
action problems within payroll management, it
is, nevertheless, essential to build on existing
arrangements and support for home-grown efforts,
instead of relying on imported turn-key solutions.
The scholarship on African public sector governance
appears divided along two strands of literature. In one
strand, it is approached through an analysis of informal
institutions (Bratton and van de Walle, 1997; Chabal
and Daloz, 1999; Bratton, 2007; Hyden, 2012). Scholars
writing in this vein tend to highlight the importance of
patron-client relations, with many subscribing to the
concept of neo-patrimonialism. Despite differences
in how the concept is operationalised, scholars using
the neo-patrimonial approach usually join a series of
practices that gives the concept its substantive content:
patronage, political clientelism, presidentialism, and
the use of state resources to maintain legitimacy. These
practices are seen in numerous examples of public
sector mismanagement, corruption, the informalisation
of bureaucratic operations, the blurring of public-private
boundaries and political instrumentalisation of reforms.
Typically, such accounts pitch their analysis at a macro-
political level.
Another other strand of literature – much of it socio-
anthropological in nature – focuses on the day-to-day
functioning of African administrations (Blundo and Olivier
de Sardan, 2006; Blundo and Le Meur, 2009; Bierschenk
and Olivier de Sardan, 2014a). Taking issue with the
high level of generality as well as the over-determinacy
of neopatrimonialist accounts (Therkildsen, 2014;
Olivier de Sardan, 2015a), this socio-anthropological
work has provided ne-grained ethnographic accounts
of bureaucracies and public services. It has done so by
highlighting a set of neglected issues and new insights,
such as the importance of formal rules and the existence
of practical norms (Olivier de Sardan, 2010; De Herdt
and Olivier de Sardan, 2015). However, few scholars
writing in this vein have ventured beyond the connes of
the street-level bureaucracies they have studied, tying
the implications of such ndings to more macro-social
considerations (for insightful exceptions, see Bierschenk
2008, 2014).
Indeed, as noted by a review of the anthropological
literature on the civil service (Hoag and Hull, 2017:
27), with the bulk of scholarship concentrated on
interface, service-provision bureaucracies, studies
centred on middle management ‘that take a holistic
view of bureaucratic processes and work across specic
“levels” of the organisation’ are very few in number. The
present paper, taking up Thomas Bierschenk and Olivier
de Sardan’s (2014b) call for an empirically-grounded
study of African administrations, endeavours to ll this
gap in the literature. Using the case study of human
resource (HR) and payroll management in the Democratic
1 Introduction
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo (DRC), we will analyse the interplay
between formal organisational structures and a range
of practices surrounding payroll management including:
patronage; clientelism; bureaucratic capture in the form
of rents linked to recruitment; leakages of civil service
remunerations; and ghost workers in the civil service.
In an insightful review of processes of sedimentation
and fragmentation in west African bureaucracies
(2014), Bierschenk notes that the mismatch between
ofcial rules and underlying realities often leads to the
production of informal norms. While enabling the minimal
functioning of administrative apparatuses, it does so
through a negative feedback loop that intensies their
functional problems (Ibid: 238).
Similarly, in the account that follows, patronage-based
recruitment in the civil service (dened as the practice
of using state resources to provide jobs and services
for groups of supporters rather than individuals), and
clientelism (dened as the inter-individual relations
between personal hierarchical networks involving
politicians and bureaucrats that aims to use state
resources for the economic support of network
members) (Therkildsen, 2014: 123) are analysed as
emerging from the incongruity between ofcial rules
and regulations and the underlying political, social and
economic realities that underpin them. The inadequacy
of ofcial rules in relation to underlying realities, this
paper argues, produces a situation where formal rules
in HR and payroll management are pragmatically
approached – at times abided by, at others violated –
but in the interstices, the practices of patronage and
clientelism can expand and reproduce themselves.
These practices, far from undermining formal institutions
(such as the ofcial mandates of the ministries involved
in paying civil service remunerations), contribute to their
reproduction. Even though, as we shall see, they also
exacerbate the administration’s functional problems.
Moreover, this paper argues that the prevalence
of patronage and clientelist arrangements cannot
be dissociated from a set of structural issues that
circumscribe public-sector functioning.
To make its case, the paper focuses on the links between
two ministries active in the administrative segment of the
1 This includes doctoral research conducted in 2010-2011 on Congo’s civil service reforms, a research consultancy report on pay issues in the DRC's health sector
in which the author served as lead-researcher in April-May 2016 (EACP/DFID-Atos-Integrity Global), as well as ongoing research between April-October 2017 and
May-July 2018 as part of the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, coordinated by ODI and funded by DFID. Unless otherwise stated, all interviews took place
in Kinshasa. The permission to make use of the information contained in the EACP report is gratefully acknowledged. Needless to say, the views expressed here do
not in any way reect those of DFID.
expenditure chain, namely the Ministry of Public Service
(MPS) and the Ministry of Budget (MoB), and particularly
the Payroll Department within the latter, mandated with
verifying payroll expenditures. The empirical material
presented here draws on several rounds of eld research
conducted between 2010 and 2018, including material
collected through a research consultancy report on pay
issues in the DRC’s health sector.1 The methodology
used throughout was broadly qualitative, based on more
than 200 semi-structured interviews with informants,
civil servants from key ministries (particularly the
Ministries of Public Service, Budget, Finance and Health),
trade unions, donor ofcials, consultants, academics,
and civil society activists. Given the delicate nature of the
subject, strict condentiality was promised to informants.
This paper therefore speaks in broad terms and does not
name individuals, functions or the departments of the
people interviewed.
The paper is split into three sections. The rst
section introduces the conceptual framework guiding
the argument, bringing together the overlapping
yet analytically distinct issues of patronage and
clientelism in a framework that places them in their
(structural) context. It also explains the relevance
of studying the wage bill’s functioning. The second
section introduces a set of preliminary remarks
showing how ofcial legislation – rendered utterly
impractical by an underlying political economy at odds
with the formal organisational framework – leads
to a set of administrative practices in recruitment
and payroll management that are conducive to
patronage and clientelist arrangements. We illustrate
this through patronage-based recruitment since
2007. The third section turns to the prevalence of
clientelist arrangements in payroll management.
These arrangements, we argue, are much more than
inter-individual clientelist relations and pave the way
for large-scale, organised payroll fraud, for which
we provide detailed empirical evidence. This paper
contends that organised fraud ows precisely from the
same (structural) factors that render the ofcial rules
and regulations regarding HR/payroll management
impractical, and the practices of patronage and
clientelism functional, in DRC’s public sector.
This paper analyses the HR and payroll management
practices in the DRC, applying the insights of a ‘real
governance’ perspective (Olivier de Sardan, 2008;
Titeca and De Herdt, 2011; De Herdt and Olivier de
Sardan, 2015) to the processes found at the core of
the administrative apparatus. To complement this
perspective, this paper also references work by political
economists on spoils politics and public sector corruption
in Africa (Allen, 1995; Szeftel, 1998, 2000a, 2000b),
to locate the processes discussed along their broader
structural backdrop. This section therefore provides a
discussion of main concepts – especially patronage and
clientelism – as well as their articulation. If these related
sets of practices are indeed features of bureaucracies
everywhere, their prominence in the DRC should be
understood against their wider context, and the peculiar
position the public administration occupies: at once the
country’s major employer; a source of livelihoods (or
survival) for many of its agents; and the prime locale for
accumulation in a setting where the formal economy
remains embryonic.
To begin with, the concepts of patronage and clientelism,
as several scholars recognise, are hard to disentangle
empirically, even if it is important to do so for analytical
reasons (Lemarchand, 1988; Therkildsen, 2014). As
stated in the introduction, this paper follows Therkildsen’s
denitions (2014:123), where patronage concerns groups
rather than individuals, and where clientelism implies inter-
individual relations. Such practices are, of course, closely
intertwined – indeed, usually patronage unfolds according
to clientelist logic – but distinguishing between them is
important as their implications in the functions they serve
and the impact they have can be quite different.
To make sense of the practices of patronage and
clientelism, it is imperative to locate them within the
broader structural context in which they intervene. This
is particularly important if we are to move beyond a
description of the way they work towards an examination
of their drivers (Szef tel, 2000a: 295; Gray and Whiteld,
2014: 8). DRC’s civil service has, since the mid-1970s,
experienced decades of state decline, economic crisis
and administrative neglect (Gould, 1980; Young and
Turner, 1985; Schatzberg, 1988; Peemans, 1997).2 In
the 1980s, a sort of consensus emerged that under the
combined weight of crisis, collapse of public funding,
2 The downward trend in administrative probity, organisational confusion,
and decient management had started before the mid-1970s economic
crisis however; the years of Congo chaos (1960-65), politicisation of the
administration and fusion with the one-party state had already dealt heavy
blows to it (Vieux 1974; Mpinga 1973).
2 The Congolese
administration –
a structural view
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
fending-for-oneself strategies (MacGaffey, 1986), and
Mobutu’s clientelist practices, the state apparatus had
become de facto privatised (Gould, 1980: xiii; Newbury,
1984). Although admittedly on the extreme end of the
spectrum, this situation was not exceptional in sub-
Saharan Africa, but followed a pattern referred to by Chris
Allen as ‘spoils politics’ (Allen, 1995).
Certainly, DRC’s wars in the 1990s and 2000s led further
blows to an already emaciated administration, a long-
standing feature of which is the use of public ofce as
an opportunity for graft, ‘where the state emerges as “a
market” where ofceholders compete for the acquisition
of material benets’ (or prebendalism, according to
Lemarchand, 1988: 153). To cite a more contemporary
account, administrations have been transformed into
‘parcels of power’, where ‘each position ... provides not
only a wage, but also an opportunity for appropriation’ (De
Herdt et al., 2015: 49).
Placing these enduring features of DRC’s administration
against their broader backdrop – the prevalence of
prebendalism or spoils politics; clientelist arrangements
to mediate bureaucratic relations; and, as we shall see,
using patronage strategies following the mid-2000s’
democratisation process – presents a signicant
advantage. Indeed, following the work of Chris Allen
(1995) and Moris Szeftel (1998, 2000a, 2000b),
public sector ‘corruption’ (as a shorthand for the type of
practices listed above) should be seen as the product of
a system where accumulation has remained dependent
on public resources, and where the public sector is
a major locale structuring political mobilisation. This
conceptualisation i s further eshed out in the empiric al
sections that follow.
2.1 The case for studying payroll management
in the DRC
Before introducing the procedures through which HR and
the civil service payroll are managed in the DRC, we would
like to make a few points regarding the importance of
studying the wage bill. To star t with, issue s afic ting the
civil service in matters of remuneration – low salaries,
uneven salary supplements and sizeable portions of state
personnel going unpaid – are relatively well-known, yet
quite poorly understood. These problems are a major
factor in DRC’s paltry record as far as public service
3 An exception is Amoako-Tuffour (2002), whose analysis of ghost workers on Ghana’s public sector payroll provides a very detailed outline of HR and payroll
management procedures. Another exception on the politics of public nance is described in the special issue of the journal Politique Africaine on ‘macroeconomics
from below’, edited by Béatrice Hibou (2011).
delivery is concerned, and the quality of civil service a
major impediment to donors’ programmes and projects.
After aborted attempts at civil service reform (CSR) in
the previous decade (Moshonas, 2014), since 2014 a
range of initiatives have been introduced to tackle this
situation, most notably through a sizeable World Bank
administrative reform project (RDC/Ministère de la
Fonction Publique, 2015a). However, outside specialist
circles within international organisations and government,
this issue has received limited attention.
Indeed, the DRC’s core state apparatus – ministries and
agencies in charge of public nances, and the central
civil service and administrative machinery – has received
relatively little coverage, aside from several reports
produced by international institutions (Morganti, 2007;
Mathis, Kashoba and Warnier 2008; Verheijen and Mabi
Mulumba, 2008; World Bank, 2008; Beaudienville, 2012;
World Bank, 2015). The exception is a handful of studies
that have addressed the civil service payroll, but their
analysis remained conned to specic sectors: education
(Verhaghe, 2007; Brandt, 2016) and health (Bertone
and Lurton 2015; Bertone et al., 2016). This dearth of
empirical research on the core state apparatus is not that
surprising. It appears to be common across Africanist
scholarship, putting aside studies on public sector
reforms that provide passing mentions to the problem
of ghost workers inating the wage bill (for example,
Lindauer & Nunberg, 1994; Ayee, 2008; Olowu, 2010).
Few of these provide detailed accounts of the functioning
of particular services3. The political linkages underpinning
budget execution, HR management and public nances
seem vastly understudied from an empirical point of view.
There are several reasons why a focus on HR and payroll
management is both timely and important. First, the wage
bill absorbs the majority of the DRC’s domestic budget:
depending on the year, between one third and two fths
of public expenses are devoted to remuneration (RDC/
Cour des Comptes, 2015: 5-6; World Bank, 2015: 6).
Second, the wage bill has been steadily rising over the
last 15 years, with payroll gures showing an expansion
of paid state personnel from around 600,000 to almost
1,300,000 between 2007 and 2017 (interview, MoB,
21.09.2017; RDC/Ministère de la Fonction Publique,
2017: 37). Third, examining the wage bill provides insights
into how the civil service operates. Indeed, this noted
expansion of the wage bill masks severe discrepancies:
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
remuneration is composed of a very low base salary,
with minimal differentiation based on rank and seniority,
and a variety of bonuses and salary supplements
(primes) can constitute over 90-95% of remuneration
(Verheijen and Mabi Mulumba, 2008: 4). This system of
salary supplements was gradually expanded from 2003
onwards, as it offered the advantage of dealing with social
turmoil through discretionary remuneration increases
without touching the base salary, which is harmonised
across the civil service (Ibid; interview, former Ministry
of Budget senior of cial, 21.05.2016). However, this
system of salary supplements overwhelmingly favours
personnel positioned in ‘juicy’, or revenue-generating/
fund channelling institutions (Morganti 2007: 26-27) and
Kinshasa-based civil servants, and varies widely across
and within ministries, with highly strategic departments
better off.
This fragmentation and opacity have been amplied
by the multiplication of distinct, ‘special’ or ‘particular’
statutes beyond the General Statute of the civil service,
through which different categories of agents are
managed separately (such as doctors, academics, the
police, etc.) (Ibid.). In addition, aside from civil servants
recognised by and registered with the MPS, around
one third of the DRC’s state personnel are Nouvelles
Unités (NU), that is, new recruits without a civil service
registration number, and therefore bereft of a wage
(even though they may receive salary supplements).
Indeed, having a civil service registration number is a
prerequisite to receive a wage, even though it does not
guarantee, on its own, integration in the wage payroll
because of budgetary constraints. This explains why
a sizeable proportion of state personnel go unpaid.
Take the health sector, for instance: in 2013, out of
approximately 130,000 health workers (only half of
which were registered with the MPS), only 30% received
a wage, 20% did not get any remuneration at all, but
80% received the occupational risk allowance salary
supplement (World Bank, 2015: 63).
These are the features, then, against which the ofcial
procedures of HR and payroll management must be
understood. What are the distortions introduced by
this fragmentation and opacity into the application of
formal legislation? What are the practical arrangements
that arise out of their mismatch? And how do practices
involving patronage, clientelism, and large-scale payroll
fraud t in those arrangements? These questions are
explored in the following two sections.
Ofcial rules and regulations in matters of HR and payroll
management are sometimes followed loosely, or not at
all. This discrepancy between the formal institutional
set-up and actual practices, this paper argues, is rooted
in the inadequacy of the formal set-up at accounting for
the underlying political and socio-economic realities
surrounding public administration. This section examines
this mismatch and illustrates the process through
patronage-based recruitment in the civil service.
As far as payroll management is concerned, procedures
are based on the four-step computerised expenditure
chain introduced in 2003, with support from the
International Monetary Fund (IMF). This supplanted
the largely paper-based, manual system that existed
before (Beaudienville, 2012: 13, 22-23). Conforming
with this expenditure chain, there is a division of labour
across institutions (recapitulated in the table below): line
ministries prepare the elements required to calculate
their payroll; the MPS is in charge of the commitment
of all remuneration spending for personnel under its
jurisdiction4; the MoB undertakes its verication; the
Ministry of Finance (MoF) issues a payment order to
the Central Bank, which then releases the funds. This
atypical institutional set-up – with the MoB separate
from the MoF – is rooted in the mid-1980s, when it was
created under structural adjustment as part of a public
sector retrenchment effort. Since then, the MoB has
hosted the Payroll Department, tasked with controlling
remuneration expenses.5
However, this ofcial procedure is only partially followed.
As far as payroll management is concerned, even though
the MPS is formally responsible for the commitment of
remuneration spending for all state personnel under
its jurisdiction – that is, civil servants governed by the
General Statute – in practice, this applies only to the
commitment of remuneration spending for the base
salary. For salary supplements – which, as we saw, are
often far superior in magnitude to wages – line ministries
liaise directly with the MoB’s Payroll Department to effect
updates about their personnel.
4 The commitment of remuneration spending for other sectors outside
the purview of the MPS – such as teachers, magistrates, etc. – is done
separately by their own institutions, but follow the rest of the expenditure
circuit for remunerations (verication by the MoB, payment order issed by the
MoF, etc.).
5 The Payroll Department appears to have been located at the MPS up to
1973, with poor results. To contain the worst abuses it had become the
vehicle of, it was transferred to the MoF thereafter, and integrated in the
MoB upon its creation in 1986 (interviews, senior MoB ofcials, 21.09.2017;
3 Ofcial
and practical
arrangements in
HR and payroll
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In addition, formal legislation in matters of HR
management in DRC6 stipulates that recruitment can
only proceed on line ministries’ express demand if funds
have been allocated in the state’s budget and, in that
case, only following a competitive exam organised by the
MPS (RDC/Ministère de la Fonction Publique, 2017: 3,
55). Again, in practice, this rule is widely violated. Instead
of recruitment being initiated on budgeted expenses
and competitive exams, hiring is undertaken within
all sectors en masse, giving rise to wide numbers of
NU, with each ministry submitting ex-post requests for
registration to the MPS (for an in-depth analysis of this
process in the health sector, see Verhage, 2018). This
explains the formidable expansion of state personnel. As
we will illustrate, this practice typically unfolds according
to patronage pressures, as access to jobs in the civil
service can serve as a powerful lever for re-election.
This also means that because civil service registration
is a prerequisite to receive a wage and constitutes a
highly sought-after status, the MPS, as the sole authority
mandated to provide civil service registration numbers,
nds itself at the centre of enormous pressures,
particularly in pre-electoral periods.
Because of budgetary constraints, however, this massive
expansion in state personnel between 2007 and 2017
has meant a substantial proportion of registered civil
servants are deprived of their wage (but can receive
salary supplements). The MoB’s Payroll Department
holds long lists of registered civil servants it is unable
to integrate in the wage payroll, because it lacks the
budgetary latitude. Taken together, these structural
features – expansive recruitment and budget constraints
– place the Payroll Department in a very powerful
position: this department has, in effect, become the
locus where payroll inclusion is decided (see also Berton
6 As laid out in a series of texts, such as the new public nances law promulgated in 2011, the General Statute of the civil service, the presidential decree outlining
the attributions of ministries, as well as more sector-specic regulations and rulings, eshing out the above dispositions in greater detail.
and Lurton, 2015: 33). Given that budgetary latitude is
limited, high stakes revolve around who can be included;
this creates ample opportunity for discretionary action,
clientelist practices and even rent capture, which helps
explain the regular accusations that are levelled against it
as a hotbed of corruption and malpractice.
Indeed, several issues beset this institutional set-
up. Firstly, the complexity induced by the four-step
expenditure chain multiplies the number of strata and
actors involved in paying remunerations and means the
risk of abuse and leakages tends to be proportional to the
number of layers (Verhage, 2007: 54). Second, abuses
are even more widespread as the MPS’s control on HR
management, especially civil service remunerations,
is all but theoretical. Even though the MPS should be
kept informed about the remuneration of civil servants
under its jurisdiction, in practice, the Payroll Department
does not often provide payroll lists to the MPS. Thus, the
MPS has almost entirely lost the ability to manage civil
servants’ careers and keep track of their numbers, let
alone respect and control formal recruitment procedures.
This is exemplied in the lack of correspondence
between MPS data on civil servants (based on a partially
completed census) and the MoB’s payroll data, which
facilitates double dipping, ghost workers, and wage-
bill ination (RDC/Ministère de la Fonction Publique,
2017: 36-37). The fact that the MPS has never received
adequate political backing to enforce civil service career
rules or to implement the administrative reforms it has
been tasked with since 2003, as well as that it faces stiff
resistance from other ministries (Morganti, 2007: 20-21),
has compounded the issue.
However, it is notable that payroll management has not
been static. In fact, it has been marked by signicant
Institution Role in the circuit
Line ministries Preparing the elements required to calculate their payroll, passed on to the MPS, as well
as ex-post controls and verifying received payments
Ministry of Public Service (MPS) Commitment of spending, passed on to the MoB
Ministry of Budget (MoB) Verifying the expenditure, passed on to the MoF
Ministry of Finance (MoF) Issuing the payment order to the Central Bank
Central Bank Executing and reporting the payment, carried out in part via commercial banks or
Caritas since 2013
Table 1: The division of labour across institutions within the expenditure chain with regards to remuneration
Source: author.
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
policy evolutions, which are worth retracing. Aside from
the four-step expenditure chain introduced in 2003,
following an audit of payroll management by the French
Cooperation in 2004, the manual procedure was, from
July 2007, gradually replaced by a computerised system
(known through its French acronym of PTS, Procédure
Transitoire Simpliée) to centralise, automate and
integrate the payroll’s various databases. Despite the
withdrawal of French cooperation from this project in
2009, the MoB continued this reform through recourse
to local expertise (Moshonas, 2018: 125-129). As its
name suggests, this reform envisaged, in the longer-
term, PTS’s replacement by a fully integrated HR and
payroll management system, which since 2014 has
been a component of the DRC’s revised CSR strategy
(the story of this reform has been recounted elsewhere,
see Moshonas, forthcoming). In 2013, then MoB
minister Daniel Mukoko Samba contracted a Congolese
consultant to replace the PTS system, for technical
reasons, with another software (known through its French
acronym of SYGECPAF, Système de Gestion Centralisé de
la Paie des Agents et Fonctionnaires). Since June 2015,
this has provided the basis for payroll management.
At the same time as these changes in computer software,
another landmark reform was superposed, this one
known as bancarisation, the payment of civil servants via
individual bank accounts, rather than manually through
the old system of accounting agents. Progressively rolled
out from 2011, and presented by the government as a
resounding success, this agship reform has, in fact, had
mixed results, particularly in rural areas (De Herdt et al.,
2015; RDC/Cour des Comptes, 2016). Less well-known
is that the computer software PTS and its successor
SYGECPAF have been the technical infrastructure
upon which bancarisation has been based. Notably,
these important reforms have been carried out under
the Congolese government’s initiative with almost no
donor involvement. Many aid agency ofcials thus saw
bancarisation as a surprise (interviews, senior donor
ofcials, April 2016), because the reform agenda in the
DRC tends to be seen as donor-driven (Trefon, 2011;
Moshonas, 2018). We will return to the issue of software
upgrading in the last section.
As we have seen thus far, formal legislation for
recruitment and payroll management is only partially
followed in some cases, and simply violated in
others. The reason behind these distortions is that
the underlying social, economic and political realities
underpinning public sector governance are completely
at odds with its formal institutional set-up. The broader
structural context against which such distortions
should be seen is one where employment in the public
administration, despite low pay and poor working
conditions, remains a highly sought-after employment
opportunity. This is not so surprising, given the
narrowness of the formal economic sector and the
harshness of working in the informal sector. A job in
the public sector offers an opportunity to sustain one’s
Picture 1: SYGECPAF webp age (
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
livelihood, the prospects of security – particularly if
one manages to obtain a registration number – while it
does not preclude moonlighting (although the latter is
forbidden by the civil service Statute). Moreover, public
administration – in part because of the above – has
turned into a major locale for political mobilisation
(through the provision of jobs and registration numbers
via patronage), as well as driving accumulation for
heavyweight politicians and senior bureaucrats. We now
apply this conceptualisation to recruitment.
3.1 Patronage-based recruitment in the
civil service
As explained above, the ofcial procedure for
recruitment – premised on the availability of budgeted
funds and competitive exams – is widely violated, as
line ministries have been operating as autonomous
recruitment authorities for some time.7 Concurrently,
the MPS – the only authority mandated to deliver civil
service registration numbers, a prerequisite for receipt
of a wage – has retained a highly strategic position
despite enormous pressures. Mass registration by
the MPS, as a practice, goes back to at least the
early-1990s, when president Mobutu ofoaded his
single-party cadres into the civil service, and when
democratisation amplied the utility of such methods
through the inuence of political parties (interview,
former MoB senior ofcial, 03.04.2016).
The minister and his cabinet are the main pressure
points, with each minister that heads the MPS attempting
to regularise unregistered civil servants. This can thus
serve as a powerful lever of patronage, because the
minister and his cabinet can rely on the support and
goodwill of not only the beneciaries of their large sse,
but of the individuals (like other ministers, powerful
politicians, senior bureaucrats) who recommend who
should be on registration lists. In other words, this
practice of mass registration involves relations of
accountability which are both vertical (civil servants
are indebted to both the MPS minister who registered
them, and to the politicians/patrons who ‘recommended’
them to the MPS minister) and horizontal (involving the
exchange of favours between the MPS minister and
the politicians who have recommended ‘their’ people
7 This situation harks back at least to the mid-1970s, when the 1972-1973 administrative reform initiated by Mobutu decentralised HR management, replacing
the Civil Service Department (as the ministry was then called) by a permanent commission. This initiative’s results were disastrous enough that the 1981
administrative reform re-centralised HR management and reinstated the Civil Service Department, although signicant damage had already been dealt (Ibula,
1987: 107, 215).
8 The absence of mass registrations during this period was also made possible due to MPS minister Jean-Claude Kibala (in ofce between 2012-2015), whose
austere and rigorous managerial style is remembered vividly by the ofcials of that ministry, as attested in numerous interviews and conversations.
for registration). We will illustrate this rather abstract
description with some examples.
As hinted above by the signicant expansion of state
personnel featuring on the payroll, jumping from 600,000
to almost 1,300,000 between 20072017, recruitment
in the civil service remains an important means,
usually mediated via patronage, through which political
constituencies are built and serviced. The pressures of
patronage-based recruitment through mass registrations
can be illustrated by the 2011 elections, when no
less than 73,951 civil servants were registered via 31
successive ministerial decrees between 2010–2012.
Interestingly, the government headed by prime minister
Augustin Matata Ponyo from 2012 attempted to revoke
the aforementioned registrations, hiring a consultant
to explore the legal means through which this could
be carried out (Ndondoboni Nsankoy, 2014). However,
according to that consultant’s report (Ibid), due to the
peculiarities of Congolese administrative law, there was
no possible legal avenue to achieve this. The fact that
these registrations had been heavily politicised, involving
the exchange of favours across the coalition’s political
spectrum in a heated electoral period, rendered this task
all the more difcult (interview, prime minister’s cabinet
ofcial, 01.04.2016).
Another initiative of the self-styled reformist prime
minister Matata was to instate a ban on recruitment
(RDC/Ministère de la Fonction Publique, 2017: 31-32)
to try to rein in political interference in HR management.
However, despite this formal recruitment freeze – which
bred some success as between 2013 and 2016 no
new mass registrations of civil servants took place8
recruitment of NU within sectors continued apace, as
suggested by the rise in unregistered personnel and
payroll data cited above. While partly justied by the fac t
that in the absence of a large-scale retirement process,
an ageing administration pushes line ministries and
government services to plug gaps by recruiting, the
expansion in state personnel is also driven by clientelism:
inuential bureaucrats and politicians nd means to
appoint their kin and clients, and when leaving ofce,
ministers ty pically of oad the members of their cabinets
into their ministerial administration (interview, former
MPS cabinet member, 01.09.2017). Appointments like
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
these consist of individuals deprived of a salary as they
are neither (yet) registered nor featuring on the wage
payroll, but who can receive salary supplements.
At any rate, the issuance of mass-scale registration
decrees by the MPS minister – kept under control
between 2012-2016 – has been a recurring feature,
one that provides the MPS with its strategic raison
d’être. Indeed, the last two years offer many examples
of this type of practice. Since the replacement of the
Matata II government with Samy Badibanga (October
2016) and Bruno Tshibala (April 2017), the MPS
has been headed by former MoB minister Michel
Bongongo, a Mobutu-era politician and close associate
of Senate president Kengo wa Dondo, under whose
helm civil service registrations (and recruitment)
has proceeded apace. The approaching deadline
for elections (in December 2018) has undoubtedly,
yet again, boosted the appeal of such endeavours.
The ofcial reason for the numerous civil service
registration ministerial decrees issued by the current
MPS minister are to regularise the NU situation –
that is, unregistered civil servants working in a legal
vacuum. MPS minister Bongongo, for this reason,
asked ministries to send over the list of their NUs, and
a commission composed of trade union members was
tasked with controlling it. However, this provided ample
9 Such abuses extended to the sale of registration numbers as well: apparently, the going rate to purchase one in Kinshasa was $150-$200 for a registration
number of Attaché d’Administration de deuxième classe, an intermediate administrative rank (interview, MPS ofcial, 08.06.2018).
10 The gures related to these decrees are quite extensive: a decree issued for the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock regularised the situation of 4,203 civil servants,
another for the Ministry of Finance 679 civil servants (decree number 101/ME/Min.FP/2018 of 18 June 2018 and 021/ME/Min.FP/2018 of 14 March 2018,
respectively). There have been wide echoes of these decrees and the irregularities that have marred them in the press (http://
publique-nouvel-arrete-coeur-de-vives-tensions-protestations-aux-affaires-sociales/ or
opportunity to add names beyond acknowledged NU
personnel. Senior bureaucrats (general secretaries,
directors, division chiefs), ministers and political
parties all weighed heavily to inuence compiled
lists, and a breach was opened for extensive abuses
(interview, MPS of cial, 01.06.2018).9
Such decrees, reportedly issued for all ministries
and even provincial administrations, have been
allegedly marred by severe irregularities10, providing
the opportunity to issue registration numbers to more
than just legitimate NU state personnel. In a tense
pre-electoral period, this type of practice can yield
substantial political dividends. An open door to the civil
service means the MPS minister, his party and their wider
political network are bound to signicantly expand their
political constituency. This also means that patronage-
based recruitment, in a setting where the public
sector is a major source of sought-after employment
opportunities, is highly functional due to both supply and
demand factors (political elites who can disburse favours
and cultivate their political bases). At the same time,
even though the MPS is unable to manage civil servants’
careers, enforce recruitment rules, or play its full role
in payroll management, the pragmatic arrangement
arising from the violation of formal procedures retains an
important role for this ministry.
Thus far, we have provided a broad overview of HR
and payroll management, showing how formal rules
and regulations are pragmatically approached at
best, or widely violated at worst, largely because
they are poorly adapted to the day-to-day realities
of a thoroughly politicised administration subject to
powerful socio-economic pressures. We illustrated
this process through an in-depth look at the practice of
mass registration of civil servants, typically unfolding
according to the logic of patronage around electoral
periods. In this section, the focus shifts towards
analysing the practices of payroll management.
As outlined above, payroll management has been
characterised by signicant policy evolutions, particularly
payroll software upgrading via PTS/SYGECPAF and the
bancarisation reform. These innovations are important
to bear in mind; on their basis a series of claims have
been made by the government about the efciency
gains they have helped realise. For example, SYGECPAF
– by consolidating and integ rating, in a single le, the
separate payroll databases on which payroll operations
were carried out – was hailed as capable of eliminating
the many errors or irregularities, such as double dipping,
associated with the PTS software that preceded it
(RDC/Ministère du Budget, 2014: 37-38). Similarly, with
leakages estimated at around 10% of the wage bill (De
Herdt et al., 2015: 87), in the previous system based
on manual distribution of cash by public accounting
agents (Verhage, 2007), bancarisation, according to the
minister of Budget (Bongongo, 2016), has allowed to
generate substantial economies– more than $60 million
– between 2011-2016.
However, despite such claims by the government, these
evolutions have by no means completely resolved
long-standing is sues aficting the payroll – double-
dipping, ghost workers or the risk of embezzlement of
remunerations – but rather displaced their political
economy. We will now examine the political economy
of payroll management by exploring the clientelist
arrangements that prevail, the problem of ghost workers
and the magnitude of large-scale, organised payroll fraud.
4.1 Clientelist arrangements in payroll
Administrative dynamics, it is argued, are usually (but
not exclusively) mediated via clientelist logic. In line with
this paper’s overall argument, this arises due to the gap
between ofcial rules and regulations and the underlying
realities that surround the civil service. Indeed, as we
4 The political
of payroll
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
saw above, DRC’s system of payroll management rests
on a largely impractical ofcial procedure, combined with
the MPS’s inability to fully play its role. This translates
into two major distor tions: rst, while the MPS submits
requests to the Payroll Department to add registered
but unpaid civil servants to the wage payroll, the Payroll
Department is unable to integrate all of those due to
budgetary constraints, and does so progressively, leaving
substantial swathes of newly registered civil servants
unpaid. Second, because the MPS is bypassed for
commitment of remuneration spending, line ministries
deal bilaterally with the Payroll Department when paying
their staff’s salary supplements. This set-up has both
preceded the introduction of computerised payroll
management in 2007, as well as endured beyond it.
The consequence of these distortions is that the Payroll
Department nds it self in a posi tion of tremendous
power and inuence: it s agents have substantial latitude
to decide – within the tight constraints of the wage bill
in the state’s domestic budget – who can be prioritised
and integrated in the payroll. Thanks to this highly
strategic role, as the locus where inclusion in the payroll is
decided, ample opportunities exist for negotiation, usually
unfolding according to clientelist logic.
As we have seen, if registration with the MPS is a
prerequisite for receiving one’s wage as a civil servant,
in practice, additional manoeuvres are required, which
typically imply use of one’s network, nancial payments or
inuence-peddling at the level of the Payroll D epartment .
This phenomenon applies to both inclusion in the wage
payroll or the salary supplement payroll and is popularly
known as the prises en compte, where naturally, it is
the ‘strongest’ (in terms of network, nancial clout and
inuence) that succeed (Bertone and Lurton, 2015:
8)11. In other words, because of the payroll’s dynamic
character (due to movements of personnel, deaths,
revocations, etc.), the MoB’s Payroll Department, as
manager of the state’s wage bill, is in a position to
inuence its distribution.
This phenomenon – namely, the need for resourcefulness
over and beyond ofcial rules to receive one’s wage or
salary supplement – is well-known and commonplace,
as recounted by any newly recruited civil servant who
has to undergo this process to achieve inclusion in the
payroll. However, it is not difcul t to understand that
11 A poster in the Payroll Department, in August 2017 (personal observation), stated that ‘Under no circumstance is any le to be received for consideration from
individual agents; such requests are to be submitted by their ministerial hierarchy alone’, implying such manoeuvres have been common practice despite efforts to
ban them.
the discretion afforded the Payroll Department in this
procedure can easily be diverted towards other, less
legitimate ends. As one privileged observer put it:
‘The Payroll Department should merely verify the
information supplied by line ministries. In these
documents, each ministry supplies the legal acts
which justify their salary supplements and their
beneciaries. The Payroll Department, therefore,
only veries the se acts , without deciding’ over these
supplements. Ofcially, one cannot go to the Payroll
Department to plead his case, but instead he has
to do that within his ministry, which then supplies
the update to the Payroll Department. In practice,
informally, because the MoB prepares the wage bill,
it is enough to be on the list – through illicit payments
– of those getting a wage and/or salary supplement.
This is possible even if you are unknown to the line
ministry concerned’ (Interview, senior MPS ofcial,
What the preceding paragraphs show, in essence, is
that many of the much-decried irregularities associated
with payroll (mis)management result from administrative
dynamics primarily mediated through clientelist logic.
However, it would be premature to conclude that
clientelist logic subverts bureaucratic principles. In fact,
a strong case can be made that the opposite holds:
clientelism helps sustain the functioning of administrative
structures, albeit through informal channels.
Indeed, a thorough application of the impersonal nature of
formal rules would turn the Congolese administration into
a nightmare for its initiates. The underlying conditions for a
functional, rule-bound bureaucracy are largely missing, so
clientelist arrangements help the system acquire a degree
of cohesion. In that sense, the arbitrariness that comes
with an administrative system mediated via clientelist logic
is accepted to the extent it can be inuenced. Of course,
to a newly recruited, under-resourced NU devoid of a
registration number, wage and salary supplement who now
has to ght an uphill battle to obtain those, the civil service
may seem at rst an impenetrable, hostile and arbitrary
system. But for insiders, for example, a well-connected
of cial endowed with relat ional resource s, in a position
of authority, protected by a ‘parapluie’ (patron) and with
entries in higher spheres, clientelist logic is what enables
one to survive and even thrive. This, we have argued, is
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
the direct result of the inadequacy of formal rules, which,
transformed through pragmatic application, become
conducive to the sort of practices described above.
4.2 The political economy of ghost workers
The preceding section detailed the prominence of
clientelist arrangements within payroll management.
However, beyond manoeuvres undertaken by individual
civil servants, Congo’s convoluted system of payroll
management also facilitates abuses on a far larger scale.
After all, evidence of ghost workers and embezzlement of
remunerations abounds: several reports documented this
for the teacher workforce (Verhage, 2007; Brandt, 2016)
or the health s ector, where one repor t placed the gure for
ghost workers in the ex-Kasai Occidental province around
30% (Likofata et al., 2017).12 One report commissioned
by the MPS and the World Bank under the auspices of
CSR advanced the gure of around 1,000 double-dippers
for the Ministry of Finance alone (KPMG, 2014: 23).
In fact, the arrangements that underpin these types of
abuses are a two-way game: after all, if inclusion in the
payroll is decided within the MoB’s Payroll Department,
instructions come from line ministries through the
updates concerning their own personnel’s salary
supplements. This can be highly lucrative: inserting
ctitious name s on the payroll allows them to recoup
wages and salary supplements once payment is carried
out (a process popularly known as opération retour).
According to the appraisal of a privileged observer, all line
ministries are concerned: ministers and their councillors,
as well as inuential senior bureaucrats (such as
general secretaries and directors) are heavily implicated
(interview, senior MPS of cial, 31.05.2017). The lat ter,
as the bosses of the civil service, are well positioned to
either be aware of the phenomenon, or more often than
not, partake in it. In his words:
‘The networks which embezzle remunerations
through ghost workers exist in almost all ministries.
The general secretaries and directors, that’s their
trade. Especially the ‘greasy’ directors, they have
the ‘madesu ya bana’ [beans for the children, an
expression connoting corrupt practices]. In the
sectors employing most civil servants, that’s where
cheating occurs on a large scale, whereas in smaller
administrative services, there are less ghost workers’
(senior MPS ofcial, 31.05.2017).
12 The issue at the provincial level is compounded by the fact that payroll management being highly centralised, it is all the more difcult to correct observed
irregularities, given only the authorities in Kinshasa have the leeway to do so (interviews, Kasai Central province - Kananga, March 2016).
Consider, for example, the controls for ghost workers
undertaken within the MPS by minister Pascal Isumbisho
in 2016. Trig gered by suspicions of extensive ctitious
personnel, the minister’s cabinet undertook verications
of the ministry’s payroll. To do so, they compared three
different lists: the MPS’s payroll lists (obtained from
the Payroll Department, which list the MPS’s paid
personnel); the ‘declarative lists’ of MPS personnel
(compiled quarterly by each ministry, listing the civil
servants effectively working, on the basis of which
the General Secretary of the sector sends updates to
the Payroll Department on salary supplements); and
presence lists (signed on a daily basis by civil servants).
The discrepancies across these three sources allowed
them to uncover around 400 ghost workers in the MPS
(out of less than 1,500 total personnel). However, aside
from removing ghost workers from payroll lists, no further
action was taken – and the issue was subsequently
dropped (interviews, MPS cabinet ofcial, 19.05.2018
and senior MPS ofcial, 31.05.2017).
Similarly, the health sector has many examples showing
the presence of such abuses. According to that ministry’s
personnel, severe irregularities characterise the sectors’
payroll management: a recurrent conict between the
Ministry of Health (MoH), the MPS and MoB is that
personnel unknown to the MoH feature regularly on
its salary supplement payroll list, whilst at the same
time – as suggested by the above health sector gures
– substantial numbers of health workers go unpaid
(interview, senior MoH ofcial, 29.03.2016). According
to a well-positioned MoH ofcial (interview, 30.05. 2018),
it is common practice for Payroll Department (and MoF)
of cials (when it comes to integrating health sec tor
personnel onto salary supplement payroll lists, done on
a quarterly basis due to budgetary constraints) to ask
for a quota of (ctitious) names to add alongside MoH
requests. Salary supplements for doctors are inordinately
high compared to other categories of personnel (between
CDF 600,000-1,000,000 – approximately $400-$700 –
and much more before the depreciation of the Congolese
franc) makes this a highly lucrative undertaking.
In fact, abuses tied to health personnel’s salary
supplements, particularly for doctors (where the
dominant doctors’ trade union SYNAMED had acquired a
position of tremendous inuence) were extensive enough
to lead to a scandal – widely reported in the press –
that resulted in almost all the personnel in the Payroll
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Department, including the director, being replaced in April
2015 (interview, World Bank ofcial, 26.09.2017 and
MoB ofcial, 23.09.2017).13
4.3 The ambivalent role of the
Payroll Department
As such, the Payroll Department’s ambivalent role is
worth considering in detail. Certainly, this administrative
service operates under tight constraints. The work
it undertakes is highly technical – controlling and
verifying over 1.3 million payroll entries – which, given
the extensive gap that separates contradictory and
impractical ofcial regulations from actual practice,
requires both perspective and pragmatism from its
agents. Over the last few years, it has beneted from
an inux of younger, better-trained per sonnel and
multiple opportunities for training, and computerising its
procedures has also helped eliminate some of the errors
and abuses tied to manual manipulation of payroll lists.14
On the other hand, numerous accounts attest that the
Payroll Department is simultaneously a notorious locale
of administrative malpractice, where lists are tinkered
with, ghost workers added, and source of remunerations
leakages. After all, if such abuses afict line ministries and
usually implicate senior bureaucrats, such operations also
invariably require the connivance of Payroll Department
agents. The most informed accounts of the greatest source
of abuse suggest that the MoB minister and his cabinet
– whose role in the current procedure involves approving
and signing the payroll lists before passing them to the MoF
to issue the payment order – are not always aware of the
ner details of the updates the Payroll Dep ar tment effec ts.
These updates, made every quarter for most sectors (and
monthly for the police, army and teachers) on the basis of
information supplied by line ministries, are often far too vast
and voluminous for the MoB cabinet to process with care. In
fact, the decision to undertake updates on a quarterly basis
(instead of on a monthly basis) was taken around 2012, in
the wake of the PTS-software introduction, precisely to give
the minister and his cabinet time to analyse payroll lists.
All this means that the source of payroll abuses tends
to be located less at the level of the MoB’s political
13 See and https:// On the replacement of Payroll
Department personnel, a response by MoB minister Michel Bongongo to parliamentary questions can be seen here:
14 It is also worth noting that Payroll Department personnel at the MoB benets from extremely high, cumulative salary supplements, compared to other ministries
or even departments within the MoB (almost on a par with those of the MoF’s highly strategic Treasury and Payment Order Department). Reportedly, an ATA1 (a
mid-ranking junior civil servant) in that department can receive the equivalent of upwards of several thousands US dollars per month, and remuneration naturally
climbs much higher for its senior ofcials such as bureau and division chiefs (interviews, Kinshasa, August-September 2017 and May-July 2018).
authorities, and more among certain civil servants in the
Payroll Department, with the connivance and complicity
of line ministries (especially sectoral HR departments and
senior bureaucrats). In the words of a rst-hand observer
and former councillor of the MoB cabinet:
‘The document that the Payroll director sends to the
minister of Budget, consists of payroll lists of many
pages [a paper stack containing payroll data of the
1.3 million personnel featuring on the wage bill], and
the minister seldom has the time to look inside in
detail, and thus there is the possibility of inclusions in
those lists. (…) And agents of the Payroll Department
maintain these practices, because the proceeds are
enormous for them’ (interview, former senior MoB
cabinet member, 03.04.2016).
In conceptual terms, the power and inuence held by
the Payroll Department, born out of the inadequacy of
ofcial rules, leaves substantial scope for discretion,
mediated via clientelist logic. Within this politicised
administration, it is subject to tremendous socio-
economic pressures and clientelist arrangements
extend beyond inter-individual relations, encompassing
larger-scale bureaucratic capture. The remainder of this
section looks at its magnitude.
4.4 The scope of large-scale, organised
payroll fraud
Large-scale, organised payroll fraud has not been
eliminated by either digitising payroll management or
the bancarisation reform. Bancarisation, for instance,
did effectively displace the network of public accounting
agents who were notorious for skimming monies off civil
servants’ wages and supplements; but novel practices
have been adapted to the new system (as shown, in
this respect, for other policies such as customs reform,
Cuvelier and Muamba Mubunda, 2013; Kambale
Mirembe, 2013). For example, one method is for insiders
such as directors and general secretaries, with the
complicity of P ayroll Depar tment ofcial s, to add ctitious
names on the payroll. Then, with legal documents
(attestations de perte de pièces) showing the recipient
is a civil servant and identity documents such as a voter
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
card, individuals receive the wage and salary supplement
at the bank, and the network shares the proceeds
(interview, MPS ofcial, 31.05.2017).15
Another angle from which large-scale payroll fraud can be
glimpsed comes from government reports themselves. In
the wake of the April 2015 overhaul of Payroll Department
personnel, then MoB minister Michel Bongongo – on
the suggestion of trade unions – decided to undertake
controls on the payroll and ministries’ functioning costs,
alleging the existence of a ‘maa network’ skimming
monies from the civil service payroll (RDC/Ministère de
la Fonction Publique, 2015b: 17). The idea of the trade
unions was that resolving the issue of leakages could help
improve civil servants’ living standards (by raising wages),
as well as integrate unpaid personnel in the payroll (for
a detailed account of controls, see RDC/Ministère de la
Fonction Publique, 2016: 17-24).
Two waves of controls were then reportedly undertaken.
In the rst phase, teams from the MoB, MoF, trade unions,
and nance inspectors were dispatched in the province
of Kinshasa to control the payroll and functioning costs of
three sectors: primary and secondary education teachers,
higher education and scientic research personnel, and
the health sector. These teams, according to ofcial
government data, discovered the equivalent of over $11.7
million embezzled for the second quarter of 2015.16’.
A second phase replicated these controls in the same
three sectors for ve provinces in the west of the country
(Equateur, Kongo-Central, Bandundu, Kasaï Occidental
and Kasaï Oriental), discovering the equivalent of almost
$15 million embezzled from civil servants’ remunerations
for the last quarter of 2015.17 This means that for the
six provinces controlled, over $22 million is lost on a
15 Certainly, such operations are limited in scale as the physical presence of the agent is required at the bank. A bigger question about remunerations’ leakages is
what happens to the reliquat – namely, the sums which are transferred to commercial banks for paying civil servants, a portion of which goes unclaimed. Ofcially,
they should be returned to the Treasury; in practice, this is far from certain. This delicate question requires more exploration.
16 See http://www.r.fr/afrique/20151117-rdc-fraude-massive-paiement-fonctionnaires.
17 See
18 This gure is also based on ofcial government data, reprinted in RDC/Ministère de la Fonction Publique (2016: 20). It is worth noting that the problems that beset
provincial remunerations, where signicant portions of personnel go unpaid, in large part stem from the fact that because payroll management is highly centralised,
only Kinshasa’s authorities at the Payroll Department have the leeway to effect changes to the payroll database. In that respect, a paradoxical result of bancarisation
is the loss of transparency regarding provincial remunerations: this policy – by individualising payment within bank accounts – means there is less visibility for the
provincial authorities as to who gets paid. While the system of manual payment through accounting agents presented well-known problems where portions of the
salaries and salary supplements were skimmed off or embezzled, at least once the money arrived in a given locality, distribution of remunerations had a greater
degree of transparency as the hierarchy knew, more or less, who was working.
19 This is all the more so since participant-observers of these control operations suggested the gures had been ‘massaged’ downwards: one trade union ofcial
observed a contradiction between the gures they produced and the data cited to the press by the MoB (cited in RDC/Ministère de la Fonction Publique, 2016:
20). Moreover, MoB ofcials coordinating control operations were accused of having a conict of interest, as they were considered to be implicated in the ‘maa
networks’ targeted for dismantling, while trade union members lacked the requisite independence. See
20 Analytical report, Résultats des analyses effectuées sur les chiers livrés par SYGECPAF, SIMAC, 2016. Moreover, according to well-placed observers, in addition to
not detecting double-dippers, the Payroll Department’s software system since 2015 is managed single-handedly by the Congolese consultant who installed it and
his team, providing limited avenues for ownership to the institution that hosts it. But the consultant and his company appear to benet from suppor t at the highest
political level (interview, MoB ofcial, 23.06.2017 and Central Bank ofcial, 22.09.2017).
quarterly basis for three sectors18, which translates to
almost $90 million per year.
A quick calculation of the wage bill’s total magnitude
(which stood at 29.74% of the CDF 8.476 trillion state
budget in 2016, or roughly $1.76 billion, RDC/Ministère
du Budget, 2016) shows these three sectors in only six
provinces had total leakages representing roughly 5% of
the wage bill – a proportion which would be much higher
for the totality of public sector personnel across the
Republic (particularly if the army and police are taken into
consideration). This also puts the 10% leakages estimate
before the bancarisation reform into perspective19.
Another means to gauge the scope of payroll fraud
is through payroll data themselves. According to an
analysis undertaken by the consultants hired by the Civil
Service Reform project, the SYGECPAF software system
used by the Payroll Department contains numerous
errors. Despite the claims cited above about the merits
of computerising payroll management at the MoB, of
about 1,288,168 remunerated entries, over 115,171
registration numbers are double dippers, appearing
between two and 14 times.20 Furthermore, despite
computer software being introduced, substantial portions
of the circuit (especially at the level of line ministries)
continues to be paper-based and manual, magnifying
the risk of errors and deliberate tinkering with payroll lists
(SIMAC and PRCG, 2014: 51).
These elements, taken together, suggest that leakages
in the payroll go beyond instrumentalisation of the
administrative procedure’s defects. After all, nancial
ows within the civil ser vice, whether remuneration
expenses or functioning costs, are typically heavily
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
politicised. Ministerial cabinet authorities and senior
bureaucrats are closely tied to the political parties
that head particular ministries, and mobilisation
of funds – particularly in politically sensitive times
surrounding the electoral calendar – creates a major
stake in ensuing political battles. For example, the
leakages in the teachers’ payroll, which is managed
by an administrative structure that maintains the
database, apparently are used to fund the presidential
party PRRD, which has held the ministry of primary and
secondary education since 2007 (interview, former
ruling coalition politician, 11.072018).
The conceptualisation we advanced here sees patronage
in recruitment, clientelism in payroll management,
and bureaucratic capture through large-scale
organised payroll fraud less as aberrations pervading
a dysfunctional bureaucracy, and more as functional
practices that help sustain formal institutions. This
situation, we argued, results from formal rules and
regulations being poorly adapted to the political realities
and socio-economic pressures that characterise
DRC’s public sector, which remains the main locale
for accumulation and political mobilisation. In the
conclusion, we will re-examine our overarching argument.
This working paper set out to provide a middle-range
analysis of HR and payroll management practices in
the DRC. We applied a real governance perspective to
a previously neglected area of African bureaucracies
– the back-ofce bureaucrats of the central public
administration who deal with the public sector payroll.
Drawing also on the work of political economists who
have stressed the salience of structural factors in
accounting for African administrative dynamics, the paper
developed a conceptualisation of bureaucratic practices,
placing them along their broader, structural backdrop.
In so doing, the practices of patronage and clientelism
within the Congolese public sector were analysed as
forces enabling the survival of formal institutions – albeit
in a truncated form. This, it was argued, stemmed from a
context where ofcial rules and regulations in matters of
HR and payroll management are ultimately premised on a
set of minimal conditions largely absent in the DRC – such
as limited political interference in recruitment, respect
for impartial rule-bound application of the General
Statute of the civil service, or domestic budget able to
accommodate a wage bill where all state personnel could
be remunerated properly. Because of this glaring gap
between ofcial rules and regulations and the underlying
social, economic and political realities that underpin
them, patronage and clientelism are what reconciles
the principle and body of formal institutions – such as
the MPS’s role in HR management, or that of the Payroll
Department in managing the public wage system – with
the socio-political pressures that surround it.
According to this conceptualisation, what are otherwise
treated as instances of public sector ‘corruption’ in the
DRC – patronage-based recruitment, clientelism in payroll
management, and bureaucratic capture through large-
scale payroll fraud – are essentially manifestations of
the broader structural position occupied by the public
administration in Congo’s political economy. Given the
st ate is the country’s major employer and public of ce
remains a sought-after opportunity, recruitment in the civil
service relieves social pressure (especially in electoral
periods) while also allowing the building and servicing of
political constituencies by inuential politicians. Because
formal and ofcial rules are poorly suited to underlying
social realities, they are pragmatically applied, leaving
substantial latitude for discretionary arrangements
which are primarily expressed through the medium
of clientelism; and these types of arrangements are
particularly conducive to bureaucratic capture of public
resources, which, given the deep politicisation of Congo’s
public administration, are intimately bound up with the
networks tying the senior ranks of the administration to
5 Conclusion
The political economy of human resource and payroll management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
political parties and personalities. This set-up, we argued,
ultimately derives from the fact that accumulation, in the
DRC, has remained dependent on public resources.
It is notable that DRC’s system of HR management
and civil service remunerations has proven remarkably
successful at reproducing itself over time. While
subject to the seeping inuence of clientelism and
patronage, and inltrated by rent capture – a set of
processes that we argue kept it going across conicting
layers of poorly-suited legislation and inter-institutional
conicts of jurisdiction – the public wage system
continues to pay wages and salary supplements each
month to hundreds of thousands of civil servants.
This suggests some functionality remains intact; all
the more interesting as this is an area of public policy
that has been almost entirely devoid of donor support.
While there are ongoing efforts in the DRC to reform
payroll management, led by World Bank funding
(Moshonas, forthcoming), the thrust of such efforts
remain within the realm of what Olivier de Sardan
describes as the introduction of ‘new ofcial norms’
(Olivier de Sardan, 2015b: 51) and all too often rely on
imported turn-key solutions. When designing reforms,
it thus is crucial to take into account the description,
analysis and understanding of practical arrangements
that underpin administrative dynamics, as well as build
on and support home-grown initiatives.
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Technical Report
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This paper reviews anthropological literature on the topic of how and why civil services function as they do. The paper considers the formal and informal rules that structure bureaucratic practice, including the effects of institutional history or culture. The review examines how bureaucrats understand or experience their work, such as the rules that guide them; the clients, bosses, or employees with whom they interact; and their own actions. Finally, the review considers what methodological or ethical challenges are posed by the study of bureaucracies. The first section explores normative expectations of organizational practice and how they shape scholars' accounts of the nature of bureaucratic power. The second section focuses on bureaucratic decision making, scrutinizing how institutional goals manifest in specific practices. The third section considers how sociocultural structures bear on bureaucratic practice, including the question of how organizational history and culture might complicate efforts at institutional reform. The fourth section engages with questions of knowledge production, ignorance, and indeterminacy, reviewing recent literature that questions the presumed role of bureaucracies and states as producers of knowledge. The fifth section explores the conceptual and practical methodological challenges faced by field researchers at institutions, and points toward key areas for future research.
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The financial remuneration of health workers (HWs) is a key concern to address human resources for health challenges. In low-income settings, the exploration of the sources of income available to HWs, their determinants and the livelihoods strategies that those remunerations entail are essential to gain a better understanding of the motivation of the workers and the effects on their performance and on service provision. This is even more relevant in a setting such as the DR Congo, characterized by the inability of the state to provide public services via a well-supported and financed public workforce. Based on a quantitative survey of 1771 HWs in four provinces of the DR Congo, this article looks at the level and the relative importance of each revenue. It finds that Congolese HWs earn their living from a variety of sources and enact different strategies for their financial survival. The main income is represented by the share of user fees for those employed in facilities, and per diems and top-ups from external agencies for those in Health Zone Management Teams (in both cases, with the exception of doctors), while governmental allowances are less relevant. The determinants at individual and facility level of the total income are also modelled, revealing that the distribution of most revenues systematically favours those working in already favourable conditions (urban facilities, administrative positions and positions of authority within facilities). This may impact negatively on the motivation and performance of HWs and on their distribution patters. Finally, our analysis highlights that, as health financing and health workforce reforms modify the livelihood opportunities of HWs, their design and implementation go beyond technical aspects and are unavoidably political. A better consideration of these issues is necessary to propose contextually grounded and politically savvy approaches to reform in the DR Congo.
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African public servants do not behave in accordance with official standards because they adhere to social norms deriving from their ancestral culture’. Although this argument is never based on fine-grained historical analyses, it is regularly asserted in various theoretical guises. The notion of ‘African culture’ is a fertile source of stereotypes without empirical foundation, forming a scientific ideology I shall call ‘Africanist traditionalist culturalism’ (ATC). It conveniently forgets counter-examples, is blind to the complexity and heterogeneity of local societies and professional milieux, and emphasizes aspects that are exotic to western eyes (kinship, ethnicity and the occult). A critical history of the concept of ‘culture’ in anthropology and sociology reveals that Parsons and Geertz gave a different semantic thrust to this concept, paving the way for modern culturalist ideology by detaching the concept from its earlier empirical base and inserting it into a ‘tradition vs. modernity’ dichotomy. A more measured, empirically based use of the concept is possible, with emphasis placed on practical norms, regulating shared practices and systems of interaction, and on local, institutional and professional cultures, including their malleability, syncretism, diversity and ambivalence.
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All observers of the African State recognize the existence of an important gap between public and professional norms on one hand and the behaviour of civil servants on the other. To be sure, this « gap problem » extends well beyond Africa. In Africa, however, it hasn’t been an object of empirical study until recently. The concept of « practical norms » helps to understand why behaviour deviating from public norms is nevertheless regulated. Besides official and professional norms on one hand, and social norms on the other, both of which constituting the whole body of largely well-known formal norms, there exists indeed a third type of norms, much less explored, the only ones which are really informal, latent, implicit. This “vertical” pluralism of norms introduces complex relationships between public norms and practical norms. Social norms can also become practical norms, and practical norms acquire a public character.. The concept of practical norms is essentially an exploratory concept, meant to stimulate empirical research that zooms in on the complicity, the variety and the ambiguity of the modernity of civil servants’ behavior in Africa – and beyond. It also allows to introduce the perspective of agency in the over-deterministic literature on norms. At the theoretical level, the question of the regulation of practices deviating from official rules has been analysed by different authors in the Northwestern hemisphere, more in particular with respect to organisations, professions and institutions, without however been conceptualised as such. The history of modern African states explains to a great extent why practical norms have acquired such an importance there. But the concept can be detached from a mere Africanist perspective and in this way is challenging both existing disciplinary and cultural boundaries.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has flagged health workforce management and compensation as issues requiring attention, including the problem of ghost workers (individuals on payroll who do not exist and/or show up at work). Recognising the need for reliable health workforce information, the government has worked to implement iHRIS, an open source human resources information system that facilitates health workforce management. In Kasaï Central and Kasaï Provinces, health workers brought relevant documentation to data collection points, where trained teams interviewed them and entered contact information, identification, photo, current job, and employment and education history into iHRIS on laptops. After uploading the data, the Ministry of Public Health used the database of over 11 500 verified health worker records to analyse health worker characteristics, density, compensation, and payroll. Both provinces had less than one physician per 10 000 population and a higher urban versus rural health worker density. Most iHRIS-registered health workers (57% in Kasaï Central and 73% in Kasaï) reported receiving no regular government pay of any kind (salaries or risk allowances). Payroll analysis showed that 27% of the health workers listed as salary recipients in the electronic payroll system were ghost workers, as were 42% of risk allowance recipients. As a result, the Ministries of Public Health, Public Service, and Finance reallocated funds away from ghost workers to cover salaries (n = 781) and risk allowances (n = 2613) for thousands of health workers who were previously under- or uncompensated due to lack of funds. The reallocation prioritised previously under- or uncompensated mid-level health workers, with 49% of those receiving salaries and 68% of those receiving risk allowances representing cadres such as nurses, laboratory technicians, and midwifery cadres. Assembling accurate health worker records can help governments understand health workforce characteristics and use data to direct scarce domestic resources to where they are most needed.
This book is about mismanagement, hypocrisy, powerlessness and sabotage. Congo Masquerade reveals the vacuity of reform logic and discourse. It is a study of aid inefficiency in one of the 21st century’s major attempts at reconstructing a failed state in Africa. These attempts commenced at a time when state crisis was overwhelming: physical infrastructure was dilapidated, the macroeconomic situation was unmanageable and the population was debilitated by dictatorship, two regional wars and an exhausting political transition. These conditions have not made state reconstruction easy. They help explain why initiatives designed and implemented by Congo’s international partners to reconstruct this huge and diverse country have, so far, been largely unsuccessful. International partners and Congolese authorities share responsibility in failing to bring about genuine political and institutional reform. The former have underestimated the complexities of political culture in Africa’s third largest territory; the latter, through ruse and strategy, deliberately hamper reform to stay in power. Throughout much of the global south, it is increasingly obvious that development aid does not always develop. It does not always aid. Congo is fabulously rich but its people are abysmally poor. Congo is a land of broken promises. This book is designed to unmask the ineffectiveness of reform and development initiatives. The analysis reveals change without improvement. It presents a critical examination of why aid is not helping while offering a theoretical framework that inspires similar critiques in other state rebuilding contexts. Congo Masquerade can help engaged development experts, NGO activists and academics improve the analytical tools needed to understand the pitfalls of reform initiatives. As Congo is one of Africa’s major development ‘markets’, the current situation needs to be reassessed with the kind of critical analysis that this book provides. The problems inherent to reform failure in Congo will not go away by themselves. This book makes explicit what many actors believe without having the courage or liberty to express openly. Congo Masquerade is not an exercise in Congo bashing or Congo Schadenfreude. It is a critical and engaged assessment that seeks to fill an information gap by sounding an alarm. The objective is to shape dialogue about state-building challenges in this unsettling geography of imbalance. The spirit of the book is one of modesty and empathy because it raises fundamental questions about development and change. As the parable of the crocodile and the scorpion reveals, we are merely groping for understanding with respect to the subtle intricacies of the reform process.