The Nigerian government said on Sunday that about 23,846 ghost workers were being removed monthly from its payroll.
The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said consequently about N2.293 billion was reduced from the total salary bill for the ministries, departments and agencies MDAs for February 2016 when compared to December 2015 when the BVN audit process commenced.
The minister said the ghost workers were uncovered in payrolls of various MDAs during the ongoing bank verification number (BVN)-based staff audit and enrolment to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The BVN is a unique number that identifies each bank’s customer for “Know Your Customer” (KYC) purposes.
The use of BVNs, rather than physical appearance of workers for biometric capture at the initial stage of verification, has significantly simplified and accelerated the progress of the payroll audit process and reduced the cost of implementation.
The BVN platform to audit and sanitise the salary payment system, ministry of finance sources said, has so far checked the details of about 312,000 civil servants currently enrolled on IPPIS, a development that has led to the discovery of a high level of irregularities in salary payment.
During the audit, names of some civil servants whose salaries were being processed were found to be inconsistent with those linked to the bank accounts into which salaries were paid.
Individuals in this category were therefore found to have either been receiving salaries from multiple sources in different MDAs, or were ghost workers.
The spokesperson to minister, Festus Akanbi, explained that the figure represented a percentage of the total number of ghost workers that have been receiving salary from the various MDAs.
“Further investigation into other suspected cases of non-existent workers will continue in conjunction with operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)”, Mr. Akanbi said.
He said the federal government was also pursuing the recovery of salary balances in bank accounts as well as any pension contributions in respect of the workers whose names have since been removed from the payrolls.
The removal of the affected names, the spokesperson said, were being undertaken in active collaboration with the concerned banks and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
Equally, the Ministry said the Military Pension Board has revised its due pension contributions payable on a monthly basis by N575million following its annual verification exercise for military retirees.
The Board said the exercise had cut down on the number of pensioners by 19,203 as a result of deaths since the last verification exercise in 2012.
To reduce personnel cost, which constitutes over 40 per cent of government total expenditure, the federal government has said it would not relent on efforts aimed at sustaining the periodic verification programme on a regular basis.
Part of that effort would to continue strengthening its payroll control systems, apart from plans to undertake periodic checks, using the computer-assisted audit techniques under its new Continuous Audit Programme.
“This will ensure that all payments are accurate and valid”, Mr. Akanbi said.
“Requirements for new entrants into the Federal Civil Service have also been enhanced to prevent the introduction of fictitious employees in the payrolls in future”, he said.
The ongoing exercise, which Mr. Akanbi explained was part of the cost-saving and anti-corruption agenda of the present administration, would be key to funding the deficit in the 2016 budget.
Savings from the exercise would ultimately help reduce the amount to be borrowed to finance the budget.
On recent calls by the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) for members of the panel investigating cases of indicted civil servants to be drawn from both government and labour, the Minister said the request would be difficult to meet, as the investigations were of a criminal nature and therefore the responsibility of the appropriate investigative agencies.