Shock and disbelief summed up the recent revelation by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, when she said 23,846 ghost workers were uncovered in the federal civil service during her recent budget defence at the National Assembly. The discovery was as a result of staff audit verification using BVN number.
This latest revelation has been generating reactions among Nigerians. How has this large number of people been drawing salaries in billions of Naira from the coffers of the federal government without the knowledge of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation? It is equally unimaginable how long these criminal practices have been going on.
The issue of ghost workers has been a recurrent decimal in Nigeria’s civil service, be it military or civilian government and efforts were always being made to tackle it without success. For instance, the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, by the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was aimed at eliminating the cankerworm. It could be recalled that the system identified 46,821 ghost workers in 2014 which saved billions of Naira for the government. It is therefore sad to note that a year later, using BVN number, over 23,000 ghost workers on federal government payroll were uncovered again.
It is even more nauseating going by critics’ observation that the Minister of Finance’s disclosure repulsively falls short of the actual figure yet to be uncovered if thorough verification is carried out. How many ministries, departments and agencies’ (MDAs) staff have been audited so far? Which particular MDAs are culpable in this racket?
According to the Minister of Finance, “If we are able to get everybody onto the BVN platform, we will be able to save a considerable amount of personnel cost. My job is to get them off our payroll. What happens from there on goes to the investigative agencies; we will pass our files onto them and they will take a decision as to what sanctions they will take. Not only will we remove those people from our payroll, but we will also be going after the banks involved to collect our money.”
Nigerians are curious. Who are the MDAs’ officials that sent fake list of employees or civil servants to banks for payment? Some critics have pointed accusing fingers in the direction of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Personnel and Account departments of MDAs believed to be the engine rooms of such fraud. This ugly incident is equally linkable to incompetence, ineffectiveness and slow registration of civil servants in the IPPIS. Further checks revealed that in five years on, only 295,000 employees have been captured in the system with an average of 4,916 per month.
For several years now, the Nigerian civil service has been labelled as a cesspit of corruption. In the face of swelling job market which sees young graduates roaming the streets without jobs, it places a moral burden on the present administration to take drastic measures towards ending this perennial scourge by investigating it. Let suspects be arrested, arraigned and punished accordingly if found guilty so as to serve as deterrent to others.