Cleaning the Civil Service Payroll: Post-Conflict Liberia, 2008-2011

Shadi Baki and Alfred Drosaye confronted a civil service in disarray in 2008, following a devastating 14-year civil war during which 250,000 people were killed, Liberia’s infrastructure was all but destroyed and government services collapsed. Despite the disintegration of the government, the civil service payroll more than doubled to 44,000 from 20,000 before the war, saddling the government with an unaffordable wage bill. Furthermore, the government had little sense of who was actually on the payroll and who should have been on the payroll. Rebel groups and interim governments put their partisans on the payroll even though they were unqualified or performed no state function. An unknown number of civil servants died or fled during the war but remained on the payroll. After delays due to an ineffective transitional government and moderately successful but scattered attempts to clean the payroll, Baki and Drosaye at Liberia’s Civil Service Agency set out in 2008 to clean the payroll of ghost workers, establish a centralized, automated civil service personnel database, and issue biometric identification cards to all civil servants. Cleaning the payroll would bring order to the civil service, save the government money and facilitate pay and pension reforms and new training initiatives. This case chronicles Liberia’s successful effort to clean up its payroll following a protracted civil war and lay the foundation for organized civil service management.
Jonathan Friedman drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia during December 2010 and on the basis of interviews conducted by Summer Lopez in Monrovia, Liberia during June 2008. Case published October 2011.
Associated Interview(s):  Shadi Baki, Alfred Drosaye
ghost workers
Focus Area(s)
Civil Service
Critical Tasks
Civil service corruption
Computerization of records
Inter-ministerial coordination
Payroll delivery
Salary structure reform
Core Challenge
Capacity (capability traps)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Jonathan (Yoni) Friedman