DESPITE previous efforts to sanitise the civil service in Ondo State, it is quite disheartening that many rat workers are still within the system, milking government funds that would have been used for public good. In two years, the Ondo State Government has lost about N497, 733 million to infractions discovered from the payrolls of the Hospitals Management Board (HMB) and the Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM); committee on Verification, Scrutinisation and Clean-Up of state payroll revealed.
NO fewer than 2,200 civil servants were fingered to be involved in the fraud perpetrated within two years which the verification exercise covered in the two MDAs. While 2000 workers were involved in over enhanced salaries steps, 76 collected both salaries and pensions, 19 are ghost workers, 16 are on leave without approval and 29 retired but still collecting full salaries while waiting for their pension among other cases. These condemnable acts have not only incapacitated the government in delivering certain welfare services to the citizens but has also denied many vibrant youths of employment into the civil service of the state.
PAYROLL fraud is not peculiar to Ondo state, it cuts across the 36 states and the federal civil service. Some days ago, it was discovered that 3,657 federal civil servants were being investigated by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for failing to get verified on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS). It was also revealed that 1,618 applicants were found to have used fake letters while 874 officers were suspended from the IPPIS platform. Significantly, the former Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, is currently being tried over alleged N109 billion fraud. Last October, the ICPC recovered 301 houses from two civil servants.
IN January, about 70,000 ghost workers were also discovered in the federal civil service. Payroll system fraud has also been uncovered in Oyo, Lagos, Bayelsa, Osun, Enugu, Kano and other states on several occasions. These are evidences that corruption in Nigeria is not peculiar to only the leaders but has also become commonplace among the citizenry.
THE Hope, therefore, calls on the Ondo state government to not only dismiss the culprits of the payroll fraud but also ensure they are diligently prosecuted. This will serve as deterrent to others who might still be in the system or those who might engage in such fraudulent activities in the nearest future. We observe that previous efforts to sanitise the Ondo payroll system ended up being politicised leading to non-diligent prosecution of those found wanting of such crime. The Ondo State government should take a cue from Zamfara State Government, which in 2019 arraigned 108 civil servants that defrauded it through the state payroll system.
THE Hope also admonishes the state government to go deeper into the fraud unearthing exercise as the civil servants could not have defrauded the payroll system all on their own. A high-tech fraud of this nature requires collaboration with some technical staff, especially those working on the e-payment system and bank officials. It will do the state a huge favour and prevent further infiltration of the payroll system by mischief workers and retirees if there is an interval and regular monitoring and evaluation exercise of the payroll system. This will give room to prompt discovery of any attempt or successful attempt by any civil servants, or either working or retired to take more than expected from the state coffers. We recommend that there must be regular scrutiny and executive approval of salary payment.
IN addition, developing a technological viable and foolproof payroll system will go a long way to prevent further fraud. This is equally tied to having a vibrant database while verification exercises for active and retired civil servants are conducted. The payroll sheet should be digitized and encrypted to prevent addition of names without executive approval.
FURTHERMORE, we observe that the bureaucratic process of getting things done in the government circle creates enabling room for fraud of this nature. For government to run its business effectively, we consider it important for government to take a cue from private business organisations that run their businesses with focus and determination to attain their goals and missions with zero tolerance for fraud.