The Senate on Thursday declared its support for the move by the Ministry of Finance to prosecute civil servants found culpable in the payment of salaries and remuneration to 23,000 ghost workers over the years.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, Senator John Enoh, who said this at a budget defence session with the Ministry of Finance, asked the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, to ensure the immediate prosecution of the suspects being accused of alleged involvement in the scam.
He also urged the ministry to recover the money they had stolen.
Adeosun told the committee that her ministry would prosecute the affected workers and the banks officials who colluded with them.
She said the ministry had been investigating the scam, adding that any bank found guilty would be made to return the money paid through it.
The minister added that the discovery of the ghost workers was due to the registration of over 320,000 workers on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System platform using their Bank Verification Numbers.
Adeosun said, “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.
“The 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 innocent people do not suffer. But we really need to clean our payroll.
“We have about 23,000 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.
“So some of the information that we are getting is how long has this person been on the payroll, how much he has been getting. Some of the accounts are held by the same bank while 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 minister added that any Ministry, Department and Agencies’ officials found guilty would be handed over to the relevant agencies of government for further investigation and prosecution.
The minister explained that in five years, the IPPIS was only able to register 295 workers, but with the BVN registration, the ministry planned to register all workers by the end of June. She added that the removal of all fake workers would reduce the personnel burden on the Federal Government, hence the reduction of personnel cost in 2016 by about N100bn.
Adeosun said, “We realised that if we can get more people on the IPPIS, our wage bill will come down and so we needed to get more people on the IPPIS.
“So, 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 onto the 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.”