Addressing the issue of ghost workers

New revelations about Nigerian civil servants who have continued to receive government salaries long after relocating abroad highlight the deep-seated inefficiencies and corruption within the public service. The case of a Nigerian living in the United Kingdom still drawing salaries with the complicity of a relative in authority is a stark example of systemic breakdown.

The persistent ‘ghost worker’ syndrome represents a widespread fraud that remains unresolved, posing significant threats to the country’s governance integrity and causing substantial financial losses annually. It is deeply unjust that some individuals exploit public funds while denying genuine job seekers opportunities.

The lack of consequences for perpetrators perpetuates the abuse of public finances. President Bola Tinubu has pledged to identify and punish those complicit, emphasizing the need for deterrent measures through public examples.

The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), introduced by the Federal Government to streamline salary payments and curb corruption, has faced resistance from various ministries, departments, and agencies. Audits by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation have exposed compromises in the system, as evidenced by the recent case of the UK-based ghost worker.

Past audits have uncovered alarming numbers of ghost workers across different levels of government. For instance, a 2016 audit at the federal level identified over 50,000 ghost workers, resulting in annual savings of about N200 billion. Similar findings have been reported in various states, including Kaduna, Kogi, Borno, and Anambra, underscoring the pervasive nature of the problem.

These discoveries underscore a broader culture of corruption and impunity within the public service. Fraudulent practices include collecting multiple salaries through proxies, retaining retired or deceased workers on the payroll, and manipulating attendance records. Such malpractices erode public trust and contribute to the perception of civil servants as economic burdens rather than contributors to national development.

To address these challenges effectively, the government must implement robust reforms. This includes leveraging modern identity management and digital tools to verify the legitimacy of employees and eliminate ghost workers. Additionally, there is a critical need for accountability measures that hold supervisors responsible for monitoring and reporting attendance accurately.

Ultimately, combating payroll fraud requires a comprehensive approach involving stringent enforcement of penalties for offenders, prosecution where necessary, and recovery of misappropriated funds. These measures are essential not only to restore credibility to Nigeria’s civil service but also to ensure efficient allocation of public resources for national development.

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