The Federal Government recently revealed that its payroll has been rid of 50,000 non-existent workers, saving the nation a huge sum of N200 billion. The ghost workers were discovered during an audit exercise of its payroll carried out by the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance between February and November 2016. This disclosure was made by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Malam Garba Shehu.
Giving details of how the ghost workers’ syndicate has been collecting salaries in the payroll of various government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for years, Shehu said that eleven members of the syndicate perpetrating the crime have been arrested and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution. Following the discovery and removal of the ghost names from its payroll, government has saved N13 billion monthly since February 2016. This is in addition to another N1.1billion saved from ghost names in monthly pension bills.
The presidency explained that when the audit committee was constituted in February 2016, the monthly wage bill of federal civil servants was N151billion, excluding pensions. However, the audit exercise which was organized to fight graft in the public service has helped to crash the monthly salary bill down to N138billion. Similarly, the monthly pension bill which before the audit was N15.5billion has equally been reduced to N14.4billion. The incidence of non-existent workers is a racket that has remained intractable for years. It has defied attempts by different regimes to rid government payrolls at the federal, state and local government levels of the public service of the scam. The racket involves mutual connivance between criminally-minded civil servants and their collaborators among bank workers.
Huge sums of money are lost monthly by government to the menace of ghost workers. It is so endemic that some MDAs in the past were indicted of the same graft and other sharp practices they have a statutory mandate to forestall. For instance, an audit carried out in all MDAs in 2013 revealed that the Budget Office of the Federation topped the list of government agencies harboring names of ghost workers, with 77.33 percent of the total staff on its payroll being non-existent. In that audit report, the Budget Office was closely followed by the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) as agencies with huge number of non-existent workers.
While the list of non-existent staff on government payroll usually consists of names of workers who have resigned, retired or died, all of which should not have remained on the payroll; other names are criminally added. To perfect the on-going war against corruption which is the core thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, government is encouraged to take full advantage of modern information and communication technology to make its payrolls fool-proof in all its MDAs. The use of Bank Verification Number (BVN) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) applications should be strengthened and improved upon for the payment of workers’ salaries. More so, this should be important to a government that needs every earned kobo in an economic recession.
All the MDAs that have not enrolled in to the IPPIS should be compelled to do so in order to completely rid the public service of ghost workers. States and local governments in the country are equally advised to adopt the IPPIS application for the payment of workers’ salaries. There is need for MDAs to keep a regularly updated record of staff who have either been disengaged, retired or have died. Ghost workers’ racketeering has refused to stop because no offender found guilty has ever been convicted. While we call on the federal government to make staff auditing a routine exercise, we urge relevant prosecuting agencies to ensure that perpetrators of the crime are prosecuted and punished accordingly if only to deter potential offenders.
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