Ghost Workers: Corrupt Insiders Sabotaging IPPIS – Ex-NUJ Secretary, Salami

… urges civil servants to expose payroll fraudsters

A former Secretary of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT Council, Rafat Salami, has blamed the inability of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to end the incidence of ghost workers on human sabotage while urging civil servants to expose perpetrators of payroll fraud in government establishments.

Salami raised the alarm during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.

The National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd), had recently revealed that the federal government uncovered no fewer than 54,000 payroll frauds since adopting the IPPIS.

Assessing the gains and challenges of the IPPIS during the radio programme, Salami described the IPPIS as an excellent initiative to promote accountability in the public service but expressed discontent over the failure of the system to eliminate ghost workers from the government’s payroll to date.

Former Secretary, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT Council.

She maintained that given the processes and requirements needed to be met by federal government employees before enrolling into IPPIS, the continued existence of ghost workers on the payroll means “there is sabotage within the system.”

“I’m enrolled in the IPPIS because I work for the federal government. Since I registered in the IPPIS, I have not had any issues with my salary or payment. IPPIS, as designed, is a very good thing to have happened to us.

“As regards the issues of ghost workers, I know the enrollment process into IPPIS, so it is still very strange to find ghost workers in the system. To be enrolled in the IPPIS, you are going to come in with your employment and confirmation letter, your school certificate, and all other documents, so how would anyone be enrolled without these documents that show that there are criminal elements in the IPPIS sabotaging the system? It is for government and the institution itself to fish them out and prosecute them.”

Salami said it was disappointing that the government is not punishing payroll thieves, adding that consequences for such crimes will serve as a deterrent for others.

To address the menace, she tasked civil servants to use whistleblowing as a tool to combat ghost workers’ syndrome. “What we all must do, especially civil servants, is to continue to blow the whistle on these fraudulent activities,” Salami advised.

Discussants during the radio programme.

Towing a similar path, a data journalist at Dataphyte, Olanrewaju Oyedeji, stressed that the federal government needs a lot of political will to fight payroll fraud and must look inward to strengthen the IPPIS by addressing its root causes.

His words: “It is quite painful where we have to keep announcing every year that we are weeding out thousands of people from the federal civil service due to job racketeering and fake employment. The question is, what was IPPIS meant to do in the first place?

“We should address the root issues, not just wait till we capture ghost workers into the system and pay them for some months,” Oyedeji stated.

Oyedeji also emphasized the need for individuals handling the IPPIS to have the political will and the personal will to do the work while urging the government to “go back to the drawing table and see how to deploy IPPIS better.

In his evaluation of the challenges bedeviling the IPPIS, public affairs analyst Agaba Wilson Agaba also blamed human elements over IPPIS’s inability to tackle payroll fraud in Nigeria, noting that it is not the system (IPPIS) but a cartel of corrupt persons running it.

On eradicating ghost workers on the government’s payroll, Agaba urged the government to get things right from recruitment and audit the payroll system intermittently, stressing that punishing people for sabotaging IPPIS will deter others.

“We need to prosecute people who are found wanting. I guarantee you that if you go to the system today, it will show you a log of everybody who inputted something, who approved something, at what time, when, and from what system they logged in. That information is there.

“The salaries of ghost workers went to some bank account. Who owns that account? Are the accounts operating in Nigeria without BVN? If not, why don’t we publish the names? We retrieve their accounts and then arrest those people one by one. They will tell us where the money is going and how they got into the IPPIS because I don’t think a ghost is operating any account in any bank,” Agaba stated.

(L-R) Data journalist at Dataphyte, Olanrewaju Oyedeji; Media & Research Assistant, PRIMORG, Esther Bassey; Public affairs analyst, Agaba Wilson Agaba and Program Manager, PRIMORG, Adaobi Obiabunmuo

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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