By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Tanzania has removed more than 10,000 "ghost workers" from its public sector payroll after a nationwide audit found their fraud cost the government over $2 million a month, the prime minister's office has said.
Government officials say the payroll audit is continuing and more non-existent workers are expected to be found.
"We will identify those behind this payroll fraud and take them to court ... the fight against corruption is top priority for the government," Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa was quoted as saying in the statement issued late on Sunday.
Purging the "ghost workers" from government payrolls would save more than 4.5 billion shillings ($2.06 million) a month, the statement said.
Reformist President John Magufuli ordered the national audit in March as part of a wider corruption crackdown.
Businesses have long said corruption and government inefficiency were major obstacles to investing in Tanzania, which ranked 117 out of 168 countries in Transparency International's 2015 index of least corrupt countries. No.1 is deemed the least corrupt.
Elected last October, Magufuli has already dismissed several senior officials, including the head of the government's anti-graft body, the country's top tax chief, a senior rail official and the head of the country's port authority.
Tanzania spends over $260 million per month to pay salaries of its civil servants, but the government believes the public wage bill is bloated by thousands of phantom staff.
The country has over 550,000 civil servants in central and local government authorities.
(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Tom Heneghan)