The Federal Government is concluding plans to probe no fewer than 23,306 federal civil servants, who have been accused by a panel of defrauding the government of millions of naira every month through an organised salary fraud.
The preliminary report of an investigative committee, set up to probe the alleged fraudulent payment of salaries to either ‘ghost’ workers or payments to multiple accounts, indicated that some banks would also be called to answer questions on the huge scam.
In a branch of one of the banks, over 300 accounts were said to have been opened in one day and all the accounts have become inactive.
A competent source on the investigative panel, who spoke to our correspondent on Thursday, said the federal civil servants and the banks, which had allegedly been indicted, had been marked down for thorough investigations and possible sanctions.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government had begun a plan to investigate and remove the names of the indicted civil servants from its payroll.
It was also learnt that some of the affected officers had started resigning their appointments as a pre-emptive measure to avert humiliation and sanctions at the end of the investigation.
Our correspondent gathered that out of 312,000 civil servants, whose bank accounts had been checked so far in the exercise through the Bank Verification Number platform, the accounts of 23,306 workers had questionable transactions.
The exercise was said to have led to the discovery of a high level of irregularities in salary payment.
“Out of the accounts of about 312,000 civil servants processed so far, the ministry has uncovered irregularities in about 23,306 of them. The account holders are suspected to have been collecting double salaries.
“These indicted individuals are in two categories. In the first group, we found out that the names of some civil servants, whose salaries are being processed, are different from the names on the accounts where their salaries are paid into. What this means is either those in this category are drawing salaries from two sources (which could be different parastatals), or they are ‘ghost’ workers.”
It was gathered that the panel also discovered that salaries were being paid into some inactive accounts, which had fuelled the belief that the Federal Government had been paying salaries to ‘ghost’ workers.
The source added that the Federal Government had placed some banks under watch over their roles in the unfolding salary scam.
It was learnt that the panel had discovered that some of these inactive accounts were domiciled in a particular branch of a bank.
“The investigating committee discovered that in a particular branch of a bank, over 300 accounts of some civil servants were opened on the same day and all of them have become dormant.
“By the time the ongoing investigation is concluded, Nigerians will be shocked by the sheer number of top and other categories of civil servants, who may be forced to resign as a result of their complicity in the salary scam,” the source added.
The Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance on Media Matters, Mr. Festus Akanbi, however, refused to confirm the preliminary findings of the panel concerning the number of federal civil servants and banks that had been indicted by the committee.
Akanbi, who spoke to our correspondent on Thursday, explained that the exercise was ongoing, adding that the public would be appropriately informed when the full report of the panel was submitted.
The finance ministry had said the adoption of the BVN became inevitable due to the failure of the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System to effectively deal with the issue of ‘ghost’ workers in the federal civil service.
According to the ministry, the strategy of using BVN rather than requiring the physical presence of each member of staff has significantly simplified and accelerated the progress of the project and at a lower cost.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had, earlier in the year, said the BVN, which does not require a physical presence of a worker, would help accelerate the pace of enrolment.
“To date, despite over five years since the initiation of the project, only 20 per cent of public employees have actually been enrolled into IPPIS due to a variety of reasons,” Adeosun stated.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, recently said some top civil servants in the ministry were dismissed for collecting N400,000 each from 400 applicants whose names were then included in the IPPIS.