A number of Pension Fund Administrators, PFAs, are being investigated over 23,000 ghost workers discovered in Federal Civil service payroll.
Sam Diala and Anurika Nwachukwu
The activities of some Pension Fund Administrators, PFAs, involved in the creation and processing of fake salaries for 23,000 non-existent government employees, referred to as ghost workers, are now under investigation. The involvement of not less than four PFAs were recently discovered by the Federal Government.
This followed revelations that an unnamed old generation bank and some government officials belonged to a syndicate that executed the salary payment scam that lasted for many years.
Although the administration of immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan had instituted a process that started the revelation of hundreds of thousands of fake employees on government payroll, Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, revealed in Abuja recently that government had identified the existence of 23,000 non-existent employees on government payroll who have enjoyed the fraudulent pay over the years running into millions of Naira.
Last week, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Finance, summoned the managing director of a first generation bank to Abuja in connection with the alleged salary fraud in the civil service, involving not less than 23,000 non-existent workers.
Also invited for a chat in connection with the scam was the Director-General of the National Pension Commission, PenCom, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu. The UNION learnt that Anohu-Amazu was invited to see the involvement of some PFAs who participated in the fake salary administration by providing fake Pension Identification Numbers, a development that the PenCom boss was said to have frowned at.
Sources disclosed that Anohu-Amazu, who left the Finance Minister’s office in deep anger, vowed to deal with the affected PFAs when investigation is completed and their involvement ascertained. She was said to have expressed determination to protect the integrity of the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, which was introduced in 2004 to replace the old pension scheme prone to fraud and manipulation.
While the identity of the old generation bank used by syndicates of the ghost workers’ salary scam was not disclosed, The UNION learnt that the Finance Minister told the bank’s Managing Director that government would wield the big stick on the financial institution and ensure that all payments made through the bank were recovered.
It was learnt that while details of the discussion with the officials of the finance ministry were not made public, the managing director of the affected bank had pledged to co-operate with the probe panel on the salary scam. He was also said to have agreed to take the necessary remedial actions to ensure that the looted funds were recovered.
A twist was added to the development after representatives of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) had met with Adeosun and top officials of the ministry for an update on the ongoing probe of the salary scam.
According to reports, the ASCSN members were said to have expressed shock and disbelief at the sheer weight of evidence against certain categories of civil servants, financial institutions and PFAs alleged to have ripped off the Federal Government through the coordinated salary scam.
“The representatives of the labour union, who had stormed the meeting suspecting a witch-hunt or deliberate plans by the Federal Government to reduce the staff strength, were taken aback when they were confronted with evidence that showed that certain categories of people had been drawing salary whereas their names were not on the nominal staff register of the Federal Civil Service,” a report said.
Quoting a source, the report further revealed that “in order to allay the fears of the workers’ union that the exercise was not intended to lay off workers arbitrarily, Adeosun showed the union officials some documents generated by the probe panel so far. “These, according to the source, included letters written to some ministries and parastatals for information on personnel cost.”
The UNION learnt that investigative agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had been briefed on the matter, and that those found culpable will be arraigned in court.
It was learnt that the Finance Minister had blown the lid on the monumental salary scam in the civil service when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance to defend her ministry’s budget. According to her, the newly introduced Bank Verification Number (BVN) and Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) introduced by the immediate past administration of former President Jonathan, had helped the Federal Government to discover 23,000 ghost workers in the civil service.
It could be recalled that former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had in 2013 discosed that the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led Federal Government had saved billions of Naira from the removal of ghost workers from its payroll. She said that the federal government discovered and weeded out 45,000 ghost workers and saved N118bn since the Integrated Payroll Payment System was introduced as a way of determining the authenticity of huge government budget recurrent revenue through mounting personnel cost in the form of salaries, allowances and other overhead .