The Nigerian senate, on Thursday, announced its endorsement of the Ministry of Finance’s decision to prosecute civil servants found guilty of paying salaries and remuneration to 23,000 ghost workers over the years.
This was stated by the Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Enoh, at the budget defence of the Ministry of Finance.
The committee Chairman urged the Minster of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, to ensure that individuals involved in the alleged scam face immediate prosecution and recover the stolen monies.
The minister of Finance, on her own part, informed the finance committee that her ministry will investigate and prosecute workers involved in the scam and also bank officials involved in the fraud, and any bank indicted in the crime, will return the stolen money transacted through them.
Adeosun further stated that the ghost workers were discovered due to the registration of more than 320,000 workers on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform using the workers Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).
She stated that:
“What the IPPIS-BVN registration has shown us has been a real revelation, we have identified that there are people who appear on our payroll multiple times.
“The BVN links all the accounts of that person, so we are seeing in our payroll, 20 names to one BVN number.
“We have had a meeting on how we are going to clean them off. The process will be that we will suspend that person from the payroll pending the investigation.
“We will try as much as possible to conclude that investigation within 30 days so that innocent people do not suffer. But we really need to clean our payroll.
“We have about 23,000 we need to investigate: those whom either the BVN is linked to multiple payment or the name on the BVN account is not consistent with the name on our own payroll.
“Not only will we remove those people from our payroll, but we will also be going after the banks involved to collect our money.
“So some of the information that we are getting is how long has this person been on the payroll, how much he has been getting. Some of the accounts are held by the same bank while in some cases all were opened on the same day.
“If we are able to prove that banks have colluded with people to pad our payroll, we are not only going to stop those payments but we are also going to try and recover our money.”
Minister Adeosun noted that the IPPIS system registered only 295 workers in five years but with the recently introduced BVN registration, the ministry hopes to register all workers by the of June.
While noting that any Ministry, department and Agency official found culpable would be prosecuted, Adeosun averred that removing of ghost works from the system would reduce the burden on government and save FG N100 billion in personnel cost.
“We realised that if we can get more people on the IPPIS, our wage bill will come down and so we needed to get more people on the IPPIS.
“So, we decided to change the strategy, rather than getting the person to come physically, we will take the payroll that we have and the bank account of everybody who is being paid.
“So from that bank account we will get the BVN, from the BVN we can get the biometric data, so that considerably accelerates the process of getting people onto the IPPIS.
“We are very confident with our programme that we will now be able to get every federally, paid civil servant onto IPPIS by June, we are aggressively chasing after June,” She stated.