Labels sacked staff ‘ghost workers’
Between September 2015 and last month, the Federal Government is alleged to have secretly sacked more than 30,000 staff of ministries and agencies.
According to sources, those sacked were purportedly labelled ‘ghost workers’, even as the government declared that it has saved as much as $15 billion after removing these ‘ghost workers’.
Investigation carried out by Nigerian Pilot Saturday revealed that majority of those sacked were staff recruited between mid 2013 and April 2015.
Nigerian Pilot Saturday learnt that the federal government saved about $3 billion monthly from the exercise as was confirmed by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, last December when she disclosed that as much as, “N2.29 billion was saved by the government after removing some ghost workers from the federal government’s payroll.”
From information gathered, then federal government had in December last year, audited its staff using biometric data and a bank verification number, BVN to identify the holders of bank accounts into which state salaries were being paid.
Following the exercise, the government later disclosed that almost 24,000 ghost workers were discovered and expunged from the staff payroll, a development the government said resulted in the saving of N2.3 billion, according to statistics released by the ministry of finance.
To establish the number of ghost workers, the panel found many receiving salaries neither have data nor had been captured by the IPPIS, but were able to collect monthly salary with the connivance of some senior civil servants at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and some banks.
The panel, we learnt established that the number of civil servants receiving salary did not correspond to the names on the accounts and that some were receiving salaries from several sources.
However, Nigerian Pilot Saturday investigation revealed that majority of those sacked as ghost workers were actually authentic staff of the ministries and agencies where they were purportedly found to be collecting salaries illegally.
Our findings established that the sacked staff were those employed in some of the replacement exercises for lower and medium level staff that may not have required going through the Federal Character Commission.
It was equally suspected that some of those laid off were those recruited by political appointees and directors by way of favour and political patronage.
For instance, we learnt that in the Office of the Accountant General and the Federal Ministry of Commerce, some retired directors were told to bring in ‘substitutes’who could either be their children or relatives.
They were ‘legitimately’ recruited, but because of a misunderstanding between officials, the matter was leaked and some of the favoured persons were labelled ghost workers and laid off.
It was also alleged that staff brought in as a fovour could remain in the employ of the federal government depending on the political affiliation of the director or political appointee that nominated or brought them in, as the present administration may choose to turn a blind eye.
In another case, last October the salaries of some staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were stopped because they were alleged to be ghost workers. However, investigation revealed that these workers had issues with their BVN, which was also not entirely their fault.
In one of such cases, a staff took up the panel and it was realised that the staff in question had filled a comprehensive data including his correct BVN details, but somehow these details were wrongly entered and submitted to the Office of the Accountant General, which labelled him a ‘ghost worker’.
It would be recalled that Festus Akanbi, special adviser to Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, stated that 23,846 alleged nonexistent workers were removed from the government’s payroll.
Akanbi said that 312,000 civil servants had as at last December been checked and that the ministry would now carry out “periodic checks and utilise computer-assisted audit techniques” in a bid to crack down on corruption in the public sector.
The periodic check may led to yet another ‘discovery of ghost workers’ as confirmed by the acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
Speaking recently during the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC Anti-corruption Sensitisation Programme organised for the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Magu, who stopped short of questioning veracity of the claimed ghost workers, urged civil servants to familiarise themselves with basic rules of engagement to avoid being unduly embarrassed.
He equally said, “Currently, EFCC working in close collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Account General of the Federation has uncovered 37,395 ghost workers in the Federal civil service and has cost the Federal Government close to N1 billion.
“Our investigations have so far revealed that the Federal Government has lost close to N1 billion to these ghost workers. The figure will definitely increase as we unravel more ghost workers buried deep in Federal Civil Service payrolls.’’
We also recall that the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had alerted the nation that the IPPIS had been compromised and suggested that the federal government was considering ways to beef up the IPPIS to guarantee its effectiveness.
The government, which is facing serious cash crunch, says wages and other personnel costs represent 40 per cent of its total expenditure,
Nigeria’s economy is currently struggling, largely due to a global slump in oil prices; oil constitutes more 80 per cent of the value of Nigerian exports. The country’s deficit is expected to double to N2.2 trillion ($11 billion) in 2016 and the country is seeking loans to finance its biggest ever budget yet.