Ghost Workers; Who is deceiving who?

The Nigerian Public service is reportedly heavily burdened with a ghost population, who not only unexpectedly write job applications and present themselves for interviews, but who also open bank accounts and collect salaries, despite their human shortcomings! Curiously, the CBN’s “know your customers” directive to banks was obviously no deterrent to the establishment of bank accounts for such ghosts! In a strategic move to forestall detection, these ingenious spirits discreetly also infiltrated the Nigeria Police Force, where a 2010 staff-audit revealed that ghost officers accounted for over 100,000 members, out of the officially registered 330,000 policemen. The audit reports further revealed apparent collusion amongst the Police pay officers, and accountants as well as bank officials to successfully rob the NPF of over N36bn annually! Verification exercise Similarly, Alhaji Mande Lofa, Chairman of Tureta (LGA), has also confirmed that a verification exercise carried out in July 2011 by the Tureta LGA in Sokoto State led to the discovery of over 500 ghost workers. Also, in July 2011, the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board reported losses of N2.4bn annually to 1477 ghost workers, while the National Identity Management Commission, also revealed that, after conducting a biometric data exercise, it had uncovered 4000 ghost workers out of about 10,300 employees on its payroll. Furthermore, in December 2011, Garba Tagwai, the Niger State Commissioner for Local Government Affairs also noted that “No fewer than 20000 ghost workers have been detected on the pay roll of the 25 Local Government Areas of Niger State”. The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also observed t Workers, hat, prior to his administration, Ekiti State government lost over N3bn annually to ghost workers out of a projected annual budget of N80bn. Unfortunately, the federal government is not immune to such fraudulent revenue leakages; indeed, in 2001, the incumbent Accountant General of the Federation, Chief Joseph Naiyeju, reported the discovery of 40,000 ghost workers following a man-power verification exercise. Similarly, 6000 ghost workers were detected after the completion of a staff audit, when Mallam Nasir El Rufai was Minister, of the Federal Capital Territory in 2006; revealingly, the FCT government was losing about $8m annually, due to ghost workers on its payroll. The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) with El Rufai as Chairman, later signed a World Bank sponsored $4.9m contract with the Nigerian-based System Specs Consortium in October 2006, for the provision of a more coherent Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS). Payroll Information System In May 2009, the House of Representative Committees on Customs and Excise also discovered that about 50% of the 20,000 workforce in the Nigeria Customs Service were ghost workers! Former Finance Minister, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, in July 2011, reported that the federal government had removed a total of 43,000 ghost workers from the old payroll of 112,000 employees in several MDAs, between 2010 and 2011, through the implementation of the IPPIS! Curiously, the Chairman of the Nigeria Pension Reform Task team, Ahaji Abdulrasheed Maina disclosed in February 2012, that on completion of a successful nationwide biometric verification of pensioners, his team detected 71,133 fake pensioners. Furthermore, N151bn fraud was also uncovered in Pension offices across the country. Later, in June 2013, the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said “215 MDAs (153,019 staff) are on the IPPIS as of January 2013. Savings on payroll cost to date is N118.9bn and work is ongoing to bring in other 321 MDAs not yet on the IPPIS.” “About 46,821 ghost workers”, according to the minister, “have also been identified.” Inexplicably, despite the available documentary evidence, especially from banks, none of the identified beneficiaries of the ghost worker scam has ever been prosecuted and convicted or indeed, constrained to return either all the stolen funds or forfeit all assets or property derived therefrom. The above narrative was first published in full on this page on 17th June, 2013, with the title “Ghost Workers and Indulgent Exorcists”. Inexplicably, over 3years, thereafter, these invisible ‘blood sucking’ demons still oppressively flourish and haunt us, as the following, more recent media reports confirm. ‘Fed Govt probes 11,000 ghost workers’ (The Nation 10/3/16) According to Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, “The Federal Government is investigating additional 11,000 workers to know if they are ghost workers”; however, about 23,000 such workers were uncovered recently, saving the government N2.29 billion monthly.” ‘EFCC probes clues in payment of N1b to ‘ghost’ workers’ (The Nation 11/4/2016) “Detectives are probing fresh clues on the alleged diversion of public funds to pay 23,000 ghost workers. Slush accounts The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was shocked to discover that most of the slush accounts used for the pay fraud have either irregular Bank Verification Number (BVN) or no BVN at all. Also, the Minister has asked the Director General of Pension Commission, Ms Chinelo Amazu, to appear before a probe panel, on how Pension Funds Administrators (PFAs) allegedly generated fake PFA numbers for “ghost workers”.” ‘EFCC detects 37,395 ghost workers in federal civil service, says Magu’ (Vanguard 19/4/16) “The EFCC chairman said in Abuja, that it had detected 37,395 ghost workers on the payroll of the federal civil service. He also noted that “with regard to procurement frauds, there has been a sharp rise in the number of petitions coming to the commission relating to violations of the Public Procurement Act 2007.” ‘Federal government uncovers 5,000 more ghost workers, says Osibanjo’ (Vanguard 24/8/2016) “Prof. Osibanjo, who spoke at a church programme in Ogere, Ogun State, said the government uncovered additional 5,000 ghost workers in the civil service. The discovery brought the number of ghost workers uncovered to 40,000 under the Single Treasury Account (TSA).” ‘FG removes 50,000 ghost workers from payroll’ (Vanguard 28/12/2016) The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu reported that ‘’Through a notable initiative, by the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the government has embarked on the continuous auditing of the salaries and wages of government departments; as a result, about N13bn will be saved from the existing monthly salary bill of N151bn as from February 2016. In addition, N1.1bn would also be saved from the existing monthly pension bill of N15.5bn.” Instructively, from the foregoing, the federal, states and 774 local governments nationwide may sadly, have harbored more ghost workers than flesh and blood employees on their payroll. Nonetheless, despite the elimination of thousands of ghost workers from the respective payrolls, the recurrent expenditure budgets of government have continued to steadily increase rather than reduce; worse still, both federal and some state and local governments also owe a backlog of several months’ salaries which they now seek to fund with high priced loans.

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