Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, yesterday, revealed how the Bank Verification Number (BVN) introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for all bank customers exposed 23,000 ghost workers in the employ of the Federal Government.
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Finance, Adeosun said “we have about 23,000 workers 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.
“Not only will we remove those people from our payroll, but we will also be going after the banks involved to collect our money.
“Some of the information that we are getting is how long has this person been on the payroll and how much he has been getting. In some, 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.”
The Senate, after her revelation, urged the Federal Government to immediately prosecute the 23,000 ghost workers found culpable of illegally drawing salaries from the government.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Eno, who announced the backing of the Senate for the prosecution, asked the minister to immediately put machinery in motion for the trial.
He also asked the government not only to retrieve the money from the ghost workers, but also ensure that the culprits received due punishment at the court of law.
Adeosun, however, assured the committee that the government had commenced steps towards the prosecution.
According to her, the ministry was already putting in place strategic plans to deal with the banks that collaborated with the ghost workers to collect government’s money fraudulently.
She said the ministry was still conducting investigations, adding that the affected workers would be suspended for one month, to enable the government to complete investigation.
Adeosun further stated that when investigation was completed, banks found liable for collusion with the ghost workers would be made to refund the money paid through them.
“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 on 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,” she said.
The minister also said ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) found guilty of harbouring the ghost workers would be handed over to relevant government agencies for investigation and prosecution.
As a result of the removal of fake workers on the government payroll, Adeosun said personnel cost of the Federal Government had been reduced by N100 billion in the 2016 budget.
“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 it.
“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 unto 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 said.