A Country Of Ghosts

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GHOST workers are the latest buzz words for governments. Yerima Ngama, Minister of State for Finance sounded triumphant when he announced that 45,000 ghost workers who earned more than N100 billion, had been discovered on the pay roll of the Federal Government after auditing 251 Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs.  There are still 321 MDAs to be audited.

Ngama in May 2012 had announced the discovery of 3,400 ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System, IPPIS. It appears the 45,000 ghost workers are the ones unearthed in the past eight months.

Clearly, the IPPIS scheme introduced since the Obasanjo administration is so slow paced that it may take awhile to authenticate the federal staff list. The same disturbing news comes from all parts of the country.

·   Attorney-General of Zamfara State Garba Gajam noted in 2011 that a month-old baby who had been in the State’s pay roll for about three years, drawing N24, 000 monthly was among 2,000 ghost workers in the State.

·    The National Identity Management  Commission in 2011 discovered that 4,800 of its 10,300 staff were ghosts.

·    A fake Commissioner was in the service of Plateau State with 5,000 ghost workers.

·     In Kano State, 8,000 ghost workers have been found.

·     Kebbi State discovered 9,300 fake workers in its local government system.

·    More than 7,000 ghost workers were unearthed in Delta State.

·     8,000 ghost workers were in Rivers State pay roll.

These may only be the preliminary findings. No state or government agency seems exempt from the business of inflated staff lists.

Ghost workers and their sponsors have formed organised crime rings with national reaches. There are no attempts to find the kingpins – it follows that nobody is punished for crimes costing the country billions of Naira annually.

Is the challenge beyond solution?  Former Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Hassan Dankwambo, now Governor of Gombe State said in 2009, “Knowing the total number of federal government staff is one of the challenges we have today. To tell you the number that we pay today, may be you’ll have to go to the Budget Office to extract that from the documents that can fill the room.”

The relevant authorities can act fast by auditing the remaining 321 MDAs but they cannot wait to punish the perpetrators of the crimes that are denying the country billions of Naira required to attend to urgent infrastructure needs.

Government is treating the matter with minimal urgency, understating the implications and criminality involved. We are not dealing with ghosts. We are dealing with criminals and there are appropriate laws to punish them. The only ghost is government’s willingness to act

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