Nigerian payroll audit reveals 24,000 “ghost workers”

1 Mar 16

The Nigerian finance ministry has announced savings of 2.29bn naira ($11.5m) after an audit revealed almost 24,000 non-existent workers on the government’s payroll.


Nigerian minister of finance Kemi Adeosun. Credit: IMF staff photo/Stephen Jaffe

Nigerian minister of finance Kemi Adeosun. Credit: IMF staff photo/Stephen Jaffe


Using biometric data and bank verification numbers (BVN), the audit identified thousands of “ghost workers” and even some individuals receiving their salary multiple times.

“The federal government has removed 23,846 non-existent workers from its payroll,” said Festus Akanbi, special advisor to the Nigerian finance minister Kemi Adeosun on Sunday, according to Reuters.

“Consequently the salary bill for February 2016 has reduced by 2.293bn naira when compared to December 2015 when the BVN audit process commenced.”

The pilot audit programme, launched to address slow progress in enrolling government staff on an integrated payroll and personnel information system as well as to identify irregularities, began at the end of last year. The ministry said using BVN would significantly simplify and accelerate process, as well as bring costs down.

Adeoson said at the time that only 20% of staff were enrolled on the integrated system five years since its launch, and stressed the finance ministry was determined to ensure everyone who collects a salary from the federal purse is enrolled.

“As part of our public financial management reforms, we are committed to scrutinising our largest single expense item. Personnel related costs account for over 40% of government expenditure and must be prudently managed to ensure the validity of every payment,” she said.

Under the BVN programme, she noted that more than 30 million biometric and personal data records had been captured, providing a pool of reliable data to cross check records held on the government’s payroll database.

This would identify “inconsistencies including duplicate payments, payments to dormant accounts, multiple payments to a single account holder, non-matching of data provided, among others”, she said.

Reuters reports that Akanbi said that, following the audit’s revelations, the government would undertake “periodic checks and utilise computer-assisted audit techniques” as well as introduce tougher monitoring.

Adeoson noted that, since the ministry began using BVN, there had been an increase in the number of requests from individuals seeking to transfer their salary from a commercial bank account to receiving their wage into micro-finance, mortgage or other bank accounts that do not require a BVN.

The ministry said it had built in controls to counteract those seeking to transfer their salary to avoid detection under the BVN programme, and Adeoson added that the ministry plans to undertake a detailed review of all persons that have requested such transfers in the last 12 months.

The ministry of finance has also set up a “continuous audit team” with the “sole function of undertaking detailed, programmed audits on payroll”, in line with a commitment made by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari in his budget speech.

As the Nigerian economy struggles to recover from tumbling oil prices, the cost of the corruption and mismanagement that have long blighted the country’s finances seem even more acute.

The IMF said last week that the country will need to implement a broad package of reforms, including curbs to government spending, if Africa’s biggest economy is to recover from falling oil prices this year. 

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