The Federal Government and 10 other states lost over N538bn to thousands of ghost workers in the last five years, investigations by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.
Of the amount, the Federal Government paid N220bn to 103,000 ghost workers between September 2013 and May 2015.
The remaining N318bn was paid by 10 states of the federation. The states are Katisna, N30bn; Kano, N17bn; Rivers, N60; Benue, N10.2bn; Oyo, N18bn; Abia, N26.5bn; Adamawa, N20.4bn; Akwa-Ibom, N15bn; Bayelsa, N120bn and Ekiti, N1.2bn.
A breakdown of the amount showed that the sum of N170bn involving 60,000 ghost workers was saved during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, while the balance of N50bn, involving 43,000 ghost workers, was saved between February and May this year.
The sum of N45bn was saved between September 2013 and May 2015 when Jonathan’s administration implemented the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System.
The IPPIS scheme is one of the Federal Government’s initiatives designed to undertake human resource management activities from recruitment to separation, including payroll and pension processing.
It also facilitates planning, aids budgeting, monitors monthly payment of staff emoluments against what was provided for in the budget; ensures database integrity; facilitates easy storage; updating and retrieval of personnel records for administrative and pension processes.
The immediate past Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said that those using ghost workers to steal from the government payroll had been referred to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission for further investigation and possible prosecution.
She had said, “60,000 ghost workers were weeded out, which saved government about N170bn.
“The ministry wrote to ICPC to trace those that needed to be held accountable and we are ready to assist ICPC on any issue that borders on transparency.”
In the same vein, the current Finance Minister recently constituted a Continuous Audit Team headed by Mr. Mohammed Dikwa to audit the payroll of the government.
Few months into the assignment, Dikwa told the finance minister that 43,000 ghost workers had been removed from government payroll.
Dikwa had said, “Let me say that since we started the continuous audit programme, we have saved about N50bn and over 43,000 ghost workers have been removed from the payroll of the federal government.”
The Rivers State Government has said that some of the ghost workers recently discovered in the state have begun to return funds illegally collected as salaries.
The action by the ghost workers, according to a source, was aimed at avoiding being prosecuted by the state government.
The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Dr. Austin Tam-George, said the state government had recovered over N1bn per month through its renewed campaign against ghost workers.
Tam-George told Saturday PUNCH that about 2,000 ghost workers had also been identified.
He explained that the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, through the identification of Bank Verification Numbers of civil servants, fished out the ghost workers.
Saturday PUNCH also learnt that the Oyo State Government saved about N300m after workers’ verification exercise.
A senior government official said the panel set up to investigate workers allegedly collecting multiple salaries were still working.
The state Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, had said on a radio programme that those involved in the fraudulent practice would be charged to court.
The source told our correspondent that one of the workers involved was drawing nine salaries, while another was receiving 11 salaries. He said arrests had already been made, but details had yet to be made public.
On May 11, the media team of the state government released a statement claiming that the state had temporarily expunged the names of 16,532 workers and pensioners from its payroll following their alleged involvement in collection of multiple salaries, falsification of retirement age and other infractions.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, said on May 17, 2016 on a television programme that the state lost about N24bn yearly to the activities of payroll frauds.
The payroll frauds, Dickson claimed, connived with some financial institutions to defraud the government.
Ekiti State Government also discovered it had been losing over N17m monthly to ghost workers after a verification of the state civil servants was carried out last year.
A top government official told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that about 307 ghost workers were discovered during the exercise.
This means that Ekiti State lost N204m in a year and N1.02bn in five years to ghost workers.
This figure is aside from the N155.7m the state lost in two years to 1,154 civil servants collecting more than their actual salaries, according to an interim report by the state’s Teaching Service Commission.
The Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, said recently that his government detected names of children and wives of some prominent persons on the payroll of local government areas in the state.
He added the state could now save about N500m monthly after flushing out the ghost workers.
Katsina State loses N6bn annually and lost N30bn in the past five years to ghost workers.
The Kano State Government also discovered 7,629 ghost workers after a biometric verification of its workforce.
The state Head of Service, Muhammad Na’iya, said following the discovery, the state would now save over N283.5m monthly from paying the ghost workers.
In Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom said a report by a biometric audit consultant showed that over N170m was being spent by the state government as salaries to 14,000 ghost workers every month. This means the state government has been spending over N2.04bn monthly on the ghost workers and N10.2bn in the last five years.
On June 13, 2016, the Abia State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku, revealed that the state uncovered no fewer than 1,800 ghost workers after a biometric verification exercise.
He said with the exercise, the state had succeeded in reducing its monthly wage bill from N1.5bn to N1.0 57bn.
The Adamawa State Government uncovered 12,609 ghost workers in the state’s local government payroll.
The Chairman of the Local Government Staff Verification Committee in the state, Mr. Maurice Vunobolki, disclosed that 12,609 ghost workers had cost the state a monthly wage bill of N341m N4.1bn annually.
In March 2016, the Akwa Ibom State Government embarked on a programme to identify and eliminate ghost workers from its civil service.
The Commissioner for Finance in the state, Mr. Akan Okon, said the government was conducting staff audit to ensure the success of the exercise.
“We are tying our payroll system to the BVN and the outcome is certainly going to help to reduce the issue of ghost workers in the state,” he said.
Many governors have initiated moves to weed out ghost workers from their payrolls to reduce the heavy wage bill burden on them.
Most states owe their workers several months of salary arrears as a result of the dwindling Federal allocations caused by the global oil slump.
While some states have concluded biometric verification exercises and have identified ghost workers in their thousands, civil servants are currently undergoing verification in many other states.
The Niger State Government said the screening exercise it initiated was ongoing and that it would go a long way to fish out ghost workers at the state and local government levels.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Governor, Mr. Jide Orintunsin, told Saturday PUNCH that it would be difficult to give the exact figure of ghost workers in the state until the exercise was completed
Orintunsin confirmed that some amount had been saved from the verification exercise.
He said, “No doubt some amount must have been saved from the exercise. The amount of the money saved will be made known to the public.”
Civil servants in Imo and Enugu states are also undergoing verification in a bid to fish out ghost workers among them.
The Imo State Head of Service, Mr. Callistus Ekenze, told one of our correspondents that the state government would announce the amount of the money saved after the verification.
Ekenze said, “It (verification) is on course and has not been concluded. It is when we discover the number of ghost workers that we will know the amount of money the government has saved.”
In Enugu State, Saturday PUNCH learnt that workers and political appointees were required to appear before the verification team at the Old Governor’s Lodge in the state capital for verification.
The Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, in an interview with one of our correspondents, explained why his state embarked on the verification exercise.
When asked what informed his decision to carry out verification before salaries are paid? Ahmed said, “Naturally, when you are faced with the kind of challenges we are facing as a country and as a state whereby your revenue is seriously reduced, the first thing you do is to cut your cost and what cost are we looking at?
“The cost of running governance, overhead cost and personal cost and we are all aware that we have had series of over bloated database for our various workforces. So, it is only normal for us to come up with a data that will suit the desired database.
“Those who have been verified have been asked to be paid. If anyone has any outstanding remittance, it is probably there are one or two areas required to ensure that you are duly desired to be enumerated. We are still working on it because it is more than just going through the biometrics. You see, this abnormality has been going on for a period of 15, 20, 30 years. So, you can’t just get it cleared up in one fell swoop programme.
“Verification will eliminate the first level then, you still have to go into document verification, which is the next level and it is not something to be done almost immediately. You will be carrying it on as the programme is moving on.”