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Monday, 18 July 2016
Fed. Govt is ready to tackle Civil service Fraud through reforms .
A report from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation showed that N763.64 billion was spent between February and April this year on salaries and pensions. Interestingly, an analysis showed that while N181.52 billion and N182.7 billion were spent in February and March respectively on salaries, the figure spiked to N268.28 billion in April.
The curious increase may have been as a result of the usual fraud in the payroll, which the government has been trying to mitigate. Adeosun said in May that the civil service monthly wage bill was N165 billion, and believed the figure was bloated. It is a scourge the previous administration confronted with the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System reform. Between 2010 and the first quarter of 2015, the scheme weeded out 60,000 “ghost” workers from the payroll. Adeosun’s predecessor, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that the government saved N160 billion annually by doing so.
However, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has continued to sieve the payroll, and has also discovered more than 60,000 “ghost” workers. According to Adeosun, the inherited IPPIS platform is defective, as the syndicate behind the scam continues to devise new strategies to undermine it. Such knowledge should inspire fresh strategic thinking on how to improve it.
Sadly, apparently missing in the redemptive template right from the Okonjo-Iweala days till now, is the determination to prosecute the masterminds defrauding government of over N300 billion annually through this loophole. As the 2011 PwC Global Economic Survey found out, fraud investigators often point to three common factors when fraud occurs called the “‘fraud triangle.” First, perpetrators of fraud need an incentive or pressure to engage in misconduct. Second, there must be an opportunity to commit fraud, and third, perpetrators are often able to rationalise or justify their actions.
But a major disincentive to fraud, experts say, is to bring charges against fraudulent workers. To perennially ignore this critical, penal element that should arrest this evil, inadvertently promotes it. Without question, the perpetrators are within the system – they are civil servants – and must be fished out, just as accounting officers in the ministries and agencies where the scam is endemic should be held accountable.
There should be a new strategy in preventing, detecting and responding to payroll scam. Investing in Information Technology techniques is critical. Apart from biometric capturing of data of staff through the IPPIS, verification of academic credentials and service records will, no doubt, yield information that could help in scaling down the payroll. A massive screening of workers’ credentials was ordered by the Head of Service of the Federation, Danladi Kifasi, in May 2015. Unfortunately, the enquiry did not gain the kind of traction that biometric data capturing did. In a country where even some members of the National Assembly since 1999 have been caught in certificate forgery, a society where scant regard is paid to values and integrity, a serious searchlight should be beamed on the bureaucracy for cheats.
Besides fishing out fraudsters from the system, the country needs a civil service that works – one that drives the implementation of government policies and programmes. Therefore, the Bureau of Public Service Reforms under Joe Abah as the Director-General has to initiate a raft of efficiency-driven mechanisms to achieve this goal. We strongly believe heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies should take an active interest in fraud risks within their organisation and should be held liable for payroll fraud under their watch.
There is an unfinished business in the restructuring and rationalisation of the civil service as outlined in the Steve Oronsaye Report. A White Paper was issued with a view to implementing the recommendations by a committee set up for that purpose. But this was stalled as appeals from some of the government agencies to be affected were not submitted to the Federal Executive Council for approval before the tenure of the last administration expired on May 29, 2015. However, in March this year, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation approved the reconstitution of the White Paper Implementation Committee.
With a comprehensive review of the Oronsaye report and the associated White Paper completed, the reconstituted implementation committee should not vacillate any more. This should be time for action that will give the country a productive public workforce and ultimately guarantee result-oriented governance