OPINION: THE GAINS OF IPPIS

The acting Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan. The Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, says the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, has helped to attain projected savings to the tune of N60bn to N120bn from cleaning Human Resource data. She said this recently during a virtual meeting on the occasion of the 2020 Africa Public Service Day Celebration themed “Entrenching Good Governance: Developing Transparent and Accountable Public Institutions.” She stressed the need to make the public service more efficient and effective by leveraging on digitalization and automation for transparency and accountability in service delivery. She also said the new performance management system was based on the principles of accountability, transparency, equity and ownership.

Recall that, Minister of Finance, Hajia Zaynab Ahmed Direct savings from yearly appropriations of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) has grown to over N100 billion.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Usman said this recently in Abuja while delivering a keynote address at a retreat. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the retreat was organised for relevant stakeholders on IPPIS by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF). The retreat had as its theme: “The role of MDAs in the implementation of IPPIS and its effect on Workers’ Condition of Service and Government Revenue.” Usman, who was represented by her Special Adviser, Prof. Armstrong Takang, said that more than 519 MDAs had been brought under the policy. She added that government personnel found to have been involved in the inclusion of ghost records on the platform were being prosecuted, while some were already serving jail terms.

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NAN reports that through the platform, the Federal Government had recorded successes such as savings and cost reduction, elimination of manual and file based system, as well as reduction and elimination of corruption and sharp practices. Others are enabling accurate and reliable information about the size of government’s workforce, while embracing the use of scientific budgeting and estimation. Usman, however, said that until the platform was efficiently implemented to the stage where it was impossible to insert ghost employees or automatically remove retired personnel and transfer them to pension records, the aim of the policy would not be achieved. The minister charged the participants to provide strategic direction for continuous implementation of the policy in their MDAs and ensure effective personnel budgeting during budget preparation. “Thus, it is expected that there would be a renewed drive to capture all outstanding MDAs on the platform, while ensuring the continuous verification of the personnel records on the IPPIS system.

“It is also imperative that the IPPIS platform be fully integrated with all the modules of the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS). “This is to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the IPPIS policy,” she said. Usman added that there was the need for a quarterly forensic audit exercise of the platform to dissuade corrupt officials and ensure the continuous sanctity of the system. Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, said activities toward the Human Resources (HR) module of the platform had commenced fully with the online records update. She said other modules include learning management, payroll, business intelligence and self-service, adding that the learning management component was on course and training of 25, 000 civil servants would commence soon. On his part, Mr Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) revealed that in 2017, the Federal Government saved N67 billion and N130 billion in 2018 on personnel cost using the platform.

He said that over 700,000 staff were captured on the IPPIS platform, 39 Nigeria Police Commands and three formations, four para-military agencies and retired heads of service and permanent secretaries as against 285 MDAs with over 235,009 staff in 2015. According to him, the trial payroll for the military and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) will commence in May. Idris, however, said that in implementing the platform, there were challenges of institutional resistance, lack of commitments from MDAs and conflict of roles and laws among the stakeholders. He said that the retreat would therefore help stakeholders understand their roles in ensuring smooth compliance and integration on the platform. “All MDAs are to comply with the presidential directive that all MDAs that draw their personnel cost from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) should join IPPIS.

“The implication of non-compliance with this directive will lead to such MDA’s personnel cost being withheld. This is to guide against further revenue leakages,” she said. The IPPIS was implemented in April 2007 with seven pilot MDAs to centralise payroll and payment systems, facilitate convenient staff remuneration payment with minimal wastage and aid manpower planning and budgeting.

Recalled that, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the Federal Government has saved more than N200bn after it eliminated ghost workers from the federal civil service. A tweet posted on the verified Twitter handle @AsoRock, revealed that Osinbajo said this during his keynote address at the on-going Open Government Week. The VP said the government had put in place the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, which helps to keep a check on the federal payroll and pensions.

To rid the public service of corruption, the Federal Government has identified 50,000 ghost workers in a move that saved the country N200 billion. Government’s action ensured that the N13 billion taken monthly from the payroll between February and December 2016 was saved. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who disclosed this to State House correspondents in Abuja, yesterday, also said11 persons championing the syndicate of ghost workers have been handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for prosecution.

He said: “The flagship programme of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to rid the system of fraud and instil good governance is on course. ”Through a notable initiative, the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the government has embarked on the continuous auditing of the salaries and wages of government departments. “When the committee was constituted in February 2016, the Federal Government monthly salary bill was N151 billion, excluding pensions. “Now, the monthly salary warrant is N138 billion, excluding pensions, which means that the government is making a monthly saving of about N13 billion. That is from February 2016 to date. “The pension bill was N15.5 billion monthly as at February. Now it is down to N14.4 billion, which means average monthly saving is made of about N1.1 billion.”

The Federal Government, in a bid to clean its payroll of ‘ghost’ workers, is currently investigating about 62,000 of its workers in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government. The investigation is being conducted by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit in collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. PICA was set up by the Federal Government in March 2017 with a mandate to identify areas of wastages and leakages in personnel costs, overhead costs, pensions and gratuities. Investigations at the PICA office revealed that out of these 62,000 workers, 30,000 of them, who are on the payroll of the government but not in the nominal roll of MDAs, were being verified.

It was also gathered that over 32,000 employee records on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System with pension and other deficiencies were currently being investigated. Further findings revealed that apart from these 62,000 employees, about 12,024 workers on government payroll collect their salaries in non-commercial banks. The number of non-commercial banks involved was put at 75, comprising 62 microfinance banks, seven mortgage banks, three finance companies, two Bureau De Change firms and one Development Finance Institution.

Further investigations showed that a total of 681 employees were using more than one salary account. This, it was learnt, was achieved by changing from one salary account to another. All the accounts used by these employees are held with non-commercial banks. It was learnt that through continuous audit of the payroll of the government, over 50,000 ‘ghost’ workers had been removed from the payroll between 2016 and 2017 with a total sum of N208.4bn saved in the process. Figures obtained by one of our correspondents from PICA office showed that from the N208.4bn, the sum of N97.94bn was saved in 2016 while N110.46bn was saved in the 2017 fiscal period.

Further breakdown of the N97.94bn saved in 2016 showed that savings through reduction in non-regular allowances of the armed forces and para-military agencies accounted for the highest savings with N33.1bn. This is about 33.8 per cent of the entire amount of N97.93bn saved in 2016. This is followed by savings from payroll shortfall verification with N30.28bn while reduction in personnel costs to MDAs followed with N15.56bn.

In the same vein, there was a reduction in the personnel cost of non-IPPIS MDAs to the tune of N11bn while savings made through reduction in non-regular allowances of health institutions were put at N7.8bn. Also in the 2016 fiscal period, it was revealed that the sum of N192m was recovered as salaries paid to ex-diplomats by PICA. In 2017, the sum of N92.49bn was saved from personnel verification (phase one to three) while N14.35bn and N3.6bn was saved based on a reduction in personnel costs to MDAs and a reduction in non-regular allowances of health institutions.

Speaking on the progress so far made in the audit of government payroll, the Secretary, PICA, Mohammed Dikwa, said the areas of wastes and leakages in personnel costs, overhead costs, capital supplementation, pension and gratuities and statutory transfers among others had been identified and blocked. He said, “We are not the ones directly blocking the accounts; we report to security agencies on those accounts and we ask them to recover the money. “The first thing we do is to block the account with the purpose of identifying the owner and then ask a series of questions. “If the money is legally collected, they will unblock the account. Unless it is established beyond reasonable doubt that the monies have been credited in that account and there is a need to recover it, then, the person can voluntarily write a cheque to the EFCC. “If not, we will go to court and recover the money back to the system. We have recovered a lot of money through that process, most of them voluntarily. They come to tender their cheques and say ‘we are sorry we collected double salaries and this is what we collected.'”

Dikwa described the issue of ‘ghost’ workers in the civil service as gross misconduct that could lead to termination of appointment and prosecution. He described the insertion of ‘ghost’ workers into government payroll as worrisome, adding that such action could not be perpetrated by an individual. He said over 50,000 ‘ghost’ workers had been identified based on the audit of the payroll of government, adding that some of the syndicates had been identified and were currently on trial.

He stated, “So, what we do is to receive a report from the EFCC from time to time and then refer the details of investigation to the parent ministry for it to take disciplinary action in line with public service rules. “It involves many people and most of the time, they operate in a syndicate. An individual cannot just go and insert somebody’s name in the payroll; it requires the connivance of officers from different places. “When time comes for verification, some other people verify them easily. So, it’s a syndicate and these 11 sets of people that we have found are the gang leaders. There are many of them and we have taken necessary action by taking them to court.”

When asked when those involved in the ‘ghost’ workers racket would be named and shamed, he said, “This is a question has a political angle to it. “For my level as a civil servant, I do my work and send it to the appropriate authorities and then allow political masters to take their decision on what to do.” AIG meets accountant general over ‘ghost police’ report. Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force has reportedly complained to the Accountant General of the Federation over a report alleging that the police were raking in billions of naira through the 80,115 ‘ghost policemen’  in the Force.

It was learnt that the police leadership was displeased with the report and had met with the AG to correct the perceived inaccuracies in it. A police source explained that the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Budget, Abdulsalam Iyaji, had held a series of meetings with the AG and his officials in a bid to correct the impression given by the report. Data obtained from the office of the AG had indicated that the 371,800 figure often quoted as the nation’s police strength include no fewer than 80,115 ‘ghost officers’. The report also revealed that following the integration of police payroll into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System last February, the police population stood at only 291,685, with a gross salary of about N22.3bn.

The officers, believed to be non-existent, were believed to have, for several years, been drawing billions in salaries and other benefits. Displeased by the report, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had directed Iyaji to meet with the AG and his officials to “correct the inaccuracies and fallacies” mentioned against the police. A source stated that the police had never put their staff strength at 371,800 as being alleged, noting that in the 2018 budget proposal, the police population was pegged at 304,000. The senior police added that the report failed to take cognizance of the fact that many policemen across the country were yet to be enrolled in the IPPIS.

The source stated, “The IG directed the AIG (budget) to meet with the AG and they have met several times to address the issues raised in the report. The two men have been meeting to resolve the controversial figures released by the AG office.” It was learnt that many policemen had yet to be captured by the IPPIS, specifically those on special deployment in Benue, Zamfara and other states as well as the contingents on peace-keeping missions in foreign countries. “As we speak, many policemen have not been captured on the IPPIS platform. Many are still doing their capturing at the Force Headquarters and at the FCT command and in other states. “There are also those that have been captured who have yet to be paid. If the Accountant General Office wanted to do a thorough job, they should have come up with the specific ranks of the purported ‘ghost’ workers,” the officer stated.

The police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, could not be reached for comment, but the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Chief Mike Okiro, said it was only the Force Headquarters that could provide the accurate staff strength of the police. “We don’t keep different records from the police. When we want to do a promotion, we ask the police for a staff list. So, we rely on what the police sent to us. We cannot say whether there are ‘ghost’ workers or not. What they send to us is what we worked with; we don’t have a separate database,” Okiro added.

Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said in Abuja that it had detected 37,395 ghost workers on the payroll of the federal civil service. The Acting Chairman of the commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, announced the figure at an anti-corruption sensitisation programme. Magu said that apart from the widespread procurement frauds in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the issue of ghost workers was a source of serious concern for the commission.

He said that current investigations by the EFCC had revealed that the Federal Government lost about N1 billion to ghost workers recently. “The EFCC has uncovered 37,395 ghost workers in the federal civil service. And investigation is still going on. “Our investigations have so far revealed that the Federal Government has lost close to N1 billion to these ghost workers. “The figure will definitely increase as we unravel more ghost workers buried deep in the federal civil service payrolls,” he said. Magu also said that the commission had established a procurement fraud unit to handle the increasing number of petitions relating to violations of the public procurement laws. He advised civil servants to avoid any acts in breach of public procurement, warning that violators risked terms of imprisonment and dismissal from service. “In regard to procurement frauds, there has been a sharp rise in the number of petitions coming to the commission relating to violations of the Public Procurement Act 2007. “That is what informed my setting up a procurement fraud unit which has since commenced investigations of procurement fraud cases with some of those cases already in courts. “Let me warn that civil servants found guilty under the Public Procurement Act risk terms of imprisonment ranging from five years to 10 years and in addition may face dismissal from the service. “The commission is determined, more than ever before, to rid all MDAs of all forms of fraudulent activities,” Magu said.

The chairman also said that the commission intended to place suggestion boxes at designated places for people to drop petitions and reports of corrupt practices to assist it in the fight against corruption. The Permanent Secretary (Works and Housing), Alhaji Abubakar Magaji, in his paper, said that as the drivers of government policies, MDAs should be in the forefront of compliance to public service laws and regulations. “It is rather sad that over time, the laws, regulations and standard practice governing the operations of the public service are being neglected and often abused, in many cases with impunity. “The MDAs are expected to be in the forefront of compliance to extant laws and regulations because they collectively constitute the engine room of the government. “They are responsible for the implementation of government policies and programmes. “Therefore, the success or failure of such policies and programmes are fully on the shoulders of public officers,” he said. Magaji said that the works and housing sectors had resolved to regularly organise interactive sessions to educate officers on the importance of compliance to extant laws, regulations and guidelines.

*** Written by Jide Ayobolu.