Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate Committee on Finance on Thursday encouraged the Ministry of Finance to cleanup the federal payroll from ghost workers by directing the Minister, Kemi Adeosun, to prosecute some 23,000 ghost workers the Ministry is currently investigating.
Speaking before the Committee at the defence of the Ministry’s 2016 Budget, Adeosun explained that the ghost workers are among the federal civil servants, whom either their Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) are linked to multiple payments, or their names on their BVN accounts are not consistent with the names on the Ministry’s payroll.
Responding to questions from the Committee members, Adeosun regretted that the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), in its five years of existence, has only been able to capture less than 20 percent of the total personnel on the Federal Government payroll.
“On the personnel cut of N100 billion in the 2016 Budget, there is IPPIS and they said they will use BVN to fast track. IPPIS started between 2005 and 2007, and less than 1/3 of the agencies have been covered. So, it may take us eternity to cover it, so many BVN will be quite handy.
“What will happen to agencies of government that are found to have used personnel provisions to have defrauded government. We have been told of billions that have been saved because of IPPIS, but we have never been told of what had happened to agencies that are responsible for such crime.
“The IPPIS programme, funded by World Bank, started about five years ago; and what it required was for every officer to come physically for biometric data capture. Over the five years, unfortunately, we have only been able to capture about 295,000 federal civil servants, which represent less than 20 percent of the total personnel on the federal payroll.
“We realised that, if we can get more people on IPPIS, our salary costs will come down; and so, we needed to get more people on IPPIS,” she said.
Adeosun revealed how the Ministry made more progress into the IPPIS in two months than what the government had been able to achieve in five years.
“So, I looked critically at it with the Director of IPPIS, and we decided to change the strategy. Rather than getting the person to come physically, which has always been the problem, 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, accelerated the process of getting people unto IPPIS.
“I can tell you that within the last two months that we have been on this programme we have been able to enroll 320,000 onto IPPIS, using BVN, that is compared to 295,000 in five years.
“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 said.
She revealed that efforts by the Ministry to clean up the payroll exposed some 23,000 ghost workers, who are being investigated.
“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. 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 we do not suffer innocent people, but we really need to clean our payroll.
“As we speak now, we have about 23,000 that 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.
“If we are able to get everybody onto the BVN platform, we will be able to save a considerable amount of personnel cost. 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 has he been getting? In some, getting the accounts are held by the same bank, and 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,” she disclosed.
She also hinted of what would befall the guilty ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
“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.
“Mine is that I do not want to pay them anymore, and whatever they have taken must come back. So, we are going to hand our files onto EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and the required agencies,” she added.
In his remark, Chairman of the Committee, Senator John Enoh, commended Adeosun and the Ministry, and charged them not to stop at just collecting the money.
Enoh particularly directed them to report their findings to the relevant agencies for necessary action.