Monday, 23 January 2017

N143bn ghost workers scam: EFCC presses charges against five alleged masterminds

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed charges against five officials, who allegedly padded the Federal Government payroll with about 50,000 ‘ghost’ workers.The Federal Government had
said the nation lost N143bn to the salary fraud.

A reliable source in the EFCC told our correspondent on Sunday that the suspects had been charged to court but the case had not yet been assigned to any judge.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had revealed in December that the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, created by the present administration, was able to uncover the 50,000 ‘ghost’ workers and saved the nation N13bn monthly during the year.

About 11 members of the syndicate that perpetuated the fraud were transferred to the EFCC.

A detective at the commission said, “You will recall that the Ministry of Finance sent the names of some suspects perpetrating the ‘ghost’ workers’ fraud. We have been able to charge five people. However, investigations are still ongoing.

“During the course of investigation, it was also discovered that a worker with the defunct Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was still receiving full salary after he had been transferred to the National Space Research and Development Agency. We discovered that he had collected N9.6m as salary while also collecting salary from his previous place of work.

“It was practically the fault of the ministry because the ministry did not stop his previous salary when it should have done so. The suspect is also culpable because he failed to inform the authorities.”

Meanwhile, the EFCC has also arrested an employee with Soft Alliance and Resources Limited for taking part in the alleged fraud.

The Federal Government, through the Accountant General of the Federation’s Office had, in 2011, signed a World Bank-sponsored contract with Soft Alliance for the provision of an Integrated Personnel & Payroll Information System.

The aim of the project was to provide a database of accurate records of federal civil servants in order to eliminate ‘ghost’ workers.

However, the EFCC discovered that a senior employee with SoftAlliance allegedly hacked into the database and inserted the names of her family members thereby stealing millions of naira from the Federal Government.

A detective at the commission stated, “A woman, who was posted to the Federal Civil Service Commission as a desk officer, added two of her family members and herself into the payroll of the Ministry of Education and was collecting salary for a number of years.

“Currently, we don’t know how much was stolen but we are still tracking the funds to know how much was spent.”

The Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura, had said last year that IPPIS was not capable of checking ‘ghost’ workers in the country due to the careless exposure of its database to the public.

At the 2014 Annual Audit Report presentation, Ukura maintained that the syndrome would continue unless the current management of IPPIS was cautioned by the appropriate authorities.

According to him, some unidentified workers of SoftAlliance Limited have unhindered access to the database and usually set up new users and change live data from time to time.

Ukura, while speaking with journalists after presenting his report, explained that the password controls for access to IPPIS were not adequate because the database could be accessed remotely through the Internet.


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