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Ghost workers: Improved payroll system as remedy

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Conceived in 2007 by government to check incidences of over bloated overheads and ghost workers syndrome in the civil service, Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) has enrolled 486 MDAs with over 330,820 employees being paid salaries through the platform. ABDULWAHAB ISA reports

 

 

Until recently, Nigeria civil service was populated mostly by ghost workers, a situation that makes government’s wage bill over bloat.

Fake employee is not new to Nigeria’s civil service system. It’s an old syndrome whose evolvement has inflicted monumental damage on civil the service structure. Quantified in monetary term, fake employee has eaten deeply into government’s vault.

 

However, conscious step aimed at reforming the civil service was taken by the former administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President.

In 2007, government began the process of overhauling the civil service through series of reforms. One of the key components of public service reforms introduced to deal with the unrestrained influx of ghost employees is Human Resource Module of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS) , an office domiciled in the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation.

 

Introduced over a decade ago, IPPIS is designed to enrol into the platform all Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that draw personnel cost fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

 

To complement the efficacy of IPPIS, the Federal Government in March 2017 set up Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) at the Ministry of Finance.

 

IPPIS outlook

 

IPPIS is government initiative designed to block loopholes and discourage corruption in the administration of personnel in public service system

 

All Federal Government employees are under compulsion to enroll in it.

 

According to official record, between April 2007 and end of June 2018, a total of 486 MDAs had enrolled on IPPIS with over 330,820 employees being paid salaries through the platform   The number of MDAs and employees captured in the scheme has increased drastically. As of March this year, a total of 511 MDAs have been captured under the platform with a total of 607,843 members of staff.

 

Last year, the government made known the intention to extend the scheme to cover para- military formations. These include the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC; Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, and Nigerian Prison Service, NPS. It has also been extended to military formations.

 

Checking wage frauds

 

Prior to formation of IPPIS, recruitment into civil service system in Nigeria was heavily riddled with malpractice and fraud. The government’s payrolls were heavily padded with ghost workers. With the implementation of IPPIS, the Federal Government said it was able to save N68 billion in 2017 alone.

 

Beyond initiating the platform, government also set up PICA in March 2017 with a mandate to identify areas of wastages and leakages in personnel costs, overhead costs, pensions and gratuities.

 

The agency recently announced investigation of about 62,000 workers in various MDAs with suspicious employment offers. This, it said, was being done in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

 

Interestingly, of the 62,000 workers spotted by PICA in the audit exercise, 30,000 were said to be on the payroll of government but not in the nominal roll of MDAs.

 

Further findings revealed that apart from these 62,000 employees, about 12,024 workers on government payroll collect their salaries in non-commercial banks.

 

The number of non-commercial banks involved was put at 75, comprising 62 microfinance banks, seven mortgage banks, three finance companies, two bureau de change firms and one development finance institution.
Further investigations showed that a total of 681 employees were using more than one salary account.

 

The continuous audit of the payroll of government by PICA is said to have led to the removal of over 50,000 ghost workers from the payroll between 2016 and 2017 with a total of N208.4 billion saved in the process.

 

PICA and IPPIS are two related innovations by government designed to eradicate ghost workers and over bloated wage bill in the civil service.

 

However, some have also argued that IPPIS is yet to completely eradicate employment and ghost worker fraud from the civil service system. If anything, this school of thought said top officers have devised a way of beating the system.

 

A civil servant, who pleaded not to be quoted, said: “With the coming of IPPIS, senior government officials doing ghost worker racket and employment scam have upped their games. The new game is replacement. This is very rampant in the paramilitary formations. Some privileged officials in para- military indulge in employment racket code- named replacement. This is very common in civil defence corp, where an official connives with staff of IPPIS to replace some people’s names with their preferred candidates.”

 

 

Denial

 

“It’s not true. With the way IPPIS is structured, it makes practically impossible for the sort of replacement they alleged to be perpetrated,” an official working at Abuja office of IPPIS told New Telegraph.

 

Exclusion trails enrollment

 

To enroll for IPPIS, an employee of government is expected to have his name sent to IPPIS office by his organisation. He is expected to produce items such as employment offer letter, last promotion letter, bank statement for at least one year and other details, which include academic qualifications, grade level and state of origin.

 

The scheme makes provision for periodic review for updates. This is to ensure all bonafide civil servants are captured.

 

To ensure no one is left out, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, during a press briefing earlier this year, said the Federal Government fixed July 18, 2018 to commence first phase of the verification exercise for those who had updated their records on the platform.

 

Oyo-Ita warned that any employee that was yet to update their records would have their details deleted from the payroll platform. While civil servants of MDAs have made much progress, it’s a different scenario with para- military formations. The complication is severe with NSCDC where over 2,500 are alleging exclusion.

 

IPPIS enrollment of Civil defence corps started September 2017. This was followed by another batch; and a third mop up batch. Quite a huge number of civil defence corps are crying over exclusion from the payment platform. In the month of August, their number in IPPIS payment warrant was put at 25,000.

 

“I joined NCDC in 2010 in Oyo state and got transfered to Abuja. I have been receiving my salary regularly until recently. When issue of IPPIS enrolling came up last year September, I enrolled at Oyo state. Then they said my names and very many others were not in the system, we were advised to come to Abuja. We went to the Office of Accountant- General of Federation (OAGF) for data capturing, but we were told by officers in charge that my name and very many other officers were omitted by NCDC. They did another capturing called mop up, yet they said our names were not uploaded. We have been shuttling between our headquarters and IPPIS for weeks with no solution,” he said.

 

Corroborating his colleague’s travail, a three -star female corp of NCDC said she received her last pay in June as a result of IPPIS’s glitch. She added that thousands of corp members of the para- military service had their promotion arrears stalled and unpaid due to unwholesome practices in the system.”

 

IPPIS Director, Olufehinti Olusegun, countered the claim. He said the capturing of para- military started September 2017 with civil defence corps.

 

“Ask them while is it that only civil defence is having this complaint? The Nigeria Prison Service and immigration are not complaining; only civil defence corps does. We had the first and second enrollments and the third one called mop up, where were these people complaining of exclusion,” he said.

 

He said a situation where some people flagrantly refused to supply required information for IPPIS enrollment shouldn’t put the blame on his office. He said when it was observed that very many officials of the corps had yet to complete IPPIS enrollment after first second enrollment and last mop up exercise, his office drew their attention via a memo.

 

“We told them that the list of staff they supplied us does not have officer’s grade level, date of birth, date of assumption of duty and other details. These are glaring mistakes on their part. Like I told you, we don’t deal with individuals, our contract is with organisations.”

 

On allegation of connivance between IPPIS and NCDC to replace corps whose names are not in IPPIS as being speculated, Olusegun faulted the claim.

 

“How is that possible? The system we operate here is a tight one, which doesn’t give such room for such to happen. There are waivers and I will give evidence. For instance, if an organisation brings a fresh list of employees, they will need to attach a copy of advertisement for the vacancy published in newspapers, letter from Head of Service authorising the recruitment, and a copy of letter from Federal Character Commission (FCC) to indicate the employment conforms to the federal character principle,” IPPIS director explained.

 

Last Line:

 

Federal Government’s dragnet needs a close knit collaboration to detect and weed out ghost workers in service and reduce government’s bloated wage bill.

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