By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has disclosed that the wage bill for February 2016 fell by N2.293 billion following the ongoing Bank Verification Number (BVN) staff audit and enrolment to the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
The Ministry of Finance recently announced that no fewer than 23,846 ghost workers had been uncovered and removed from the federal government payroll.

Giving an insight into the new savings in a statement issued yesterday, the Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Mr. Festus Akanbi, said compared to December 2015 when the BVN audit process commenced, the wage bill came down by N2.293 billion in February when the exercise is already in use.
According to the statement, this figure represents a percentage of the number of non-existent workers who had hitherto been receiving salary from various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), adding that the investigation of other suspected cases continuesin conjunction with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The BVN is a number that uniquely identifies each bank’s customer for “Know Your Customer” (KYC) purposes.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the strategy of using BVNs, rather than requiring the physical presence of each member of staff for biometric captured at the initial stage of verification, has significantly simplified and accelerated the progress of the payroll audit process and reduced the cost of implementation.
With the adoption of the BVN platform to audit and sanitise the salary payment system, the ministry said it has so far checked the details of about 312,000 civil servants currently enrolled on IPPIS, a development said to have led to the discovery of a high level of irregularities in salary payment.

In some instances, the exercise showed that the names of some civil servants whose salaries are being processed are not consistent with the names linked to the accounts into which their salaries are paid. Individuals in this category are therefore either receiving salary payments from multiple sources (which could be different parastatals for example), or they are non-existent workers.

“The federal government is also taking actions to pursue the recovery of salary balances in bank accounts as well as any pension contributions in respect of the deleted workers. This involves active collaboration with the concerned banks and the National Pension Commission (Pencom).

“The ministry noted that the Military Pension Board has revised the amount payable for its due pension contributions on a monthly basis by N575million, following its annual verification exercise for military retirees. This reduced the number of pensioners by 19,203 as a result of deaths since the last verification exercise in 2012. The federal government, in its efforts to reduce personnel cost, is determined to continue the verification programme on a regular periodic basis,” the statement added.

Due to the fact that personnel costs represent over 40 per cent of total government expenditure, the ministry explained that the federal government would continue to strengthen its payroll controls. It plans to undertake periodic checks and to utilise Computer Assisted Audit Techniques under its new Continuous Audit Programme.

However, reacting to the recent call by the leadership of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) that the panel members investigating the cases of indicted civil servants be drawn from both government and labour, the ministry explained that the request could not be acceded to, as the investigations were of a criminal nature and would therefore be handled by the appropriate investigative agencies.