Manama: Kuwait has referred 38 state employees to the public prosecution for reportedly faking their fingerprints in a scheme to mark their attendance without showing up for work.

Colleagues used silicone finger tips to cover for the employees and were careful not to show their faces to the camera, the minister of commerce and industry Khalid Al Rowdan said.

“The employees were referred to justice and an administrative order has been issued to all the employees to ensure their faces are clear to the camera when they are logging in with their fingerprints,” he said, quoted by Kuwaiti daily Al Rai.

“Without a clear view of the face of the employee logging in, the attendance will not be not be validated.”

An investigation into the scam was launched by the legal affairs department following remarks that employees did not show their faces while signing in, he added.

“All the scanner machines are equipped with cameras, and it was noticed that some employees scanned their fingerprints while covering the cameras or kept their faces away from it,” Al Rowdan said.

Ghost employees and high levels of absenteeism has been a thorny issue in public departments in the Gulf and the authorities have been pressing for stringent action to bring it down.

In January, the director of a health centre in Saudi Arabia was sacked after a video highlighting his repeated absenteeism went viral on social media.

The video taken by a patient showed the office of the director — as well as many other offices — empty, while elderly Saudi nationals waited in the main hall.

In December, the newly-appointed mayor of Madinah in western Saudi Arabia imposed a fingerprint authentication system to track the physical presence of government employees on the premises five times a day during working hours.

Under the new policy, 2,000 employees needed to prove their attendance throughout the seven working hours by using the fingerprint reader when they arrive, and again at 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.45am, and upon leaving.

If an employee does not use the reader at the three designated times between his arrival and departure, he will be considered absent for three hours and salary will be deducted accordingly, and if he does not sign in or sign off, he will be considered absent the full day.

The new attendance tracking scheme was introduced by the mayor after a study he had commissioned concluded that productivity was low and that the major reason was the absence of employees.