It stated that through the ongoing Bank Verification Number-based staff audit and enrolment to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, the amount spent on payment of salaries to government workers reduced by N2.29bn in February when compared to what it was in December 2015.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, confirmed the development in a statement by her Special Adviser on Media, Mr Festus Akanbi.
The statement reads in part, “Through the ongoing BVN-based staff audit and enrolment to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, the Federal Government has removed 23,846 non-existent workers from its payroll.
“Consequently, the salary bill for February 2016 has reduced by N2.293bn when compared to December 2015 at which time the BVN audit process commenced.”
The ministry said the figure represented a percentage of the number of non-existent workers, who had hitherto been receiving salaries from various ministries, departments and agencies.
It added that it was investigating other suspected cases in conjunction with the EFCC.
“The Federal Government is also taking actions to pursue recovery of salary balances in bank accounts as well as any pension contributions in respect of the deleted workers.
“This involves active collaboration with the concerned banks and the National Pension Commission,” the statement added.
The minister stated that the Military Pension Board had revised the amount payable as its pension contributions on a monthly basis by N575m, following its annual verification for military retirees.
This, it stated, had led to a reduction in the number of pensioners by 19,203 as a result of deaths since the last verification exercise in 2012.
It said, “The Federal Government, in its efforts to reduce personnel cost, is determined to continue the verification programme on a regular periodic basis.”
Against the backdrop that personnel costs represent over 40 per cent of total government expenditure, the ministry said the Federal Government would continue to strengthen its payroll controls.
It said it planned to undertake periodic checks and to utilise Computer Assisted Audit Techniques under its new Continuous Audit Programme.
“This will ensure that all payments are accurate and valid,” it stressed.
The minister also stated that the requirements for new entrants into the Federal Civil Service had also been enhanced to prevent the introduction of fictitious employees in future.
It said the exercise, which was part of the cost-saving and anti-corruption agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, was key to funding the deficit in the 2016 budget, as savings made would ultimately reduce the amount to be borrowed.
Reacting to the recent call by the leadership of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria that the panel members investigating the cases of indicted civil servants be drawn from both government and labour, the minister explained that the request could not be granted because the investigations were into criminal matters and should therefore be handled by specialised agencies.
It said the strategy of using BVNs rather than requiring the physical presence of each member of staff for biometric capture at the initial stage of verification, significantly simplified and accelerated the progress of the payroll audit process and reduced the cost of implementation.
The ministry stated that with the adoption of the BVN platform to audit and sanitise the salary payment system, it had so far checked the details of about 312,000 civil servants currently enrolled on IPPIS.
This development is said to have led to the discovery of a high level of irregularities in salary payment.
According to the statement, in some instances, the exercise showed that the names of some civil servants, whose salaries were being processed, were not consistent with the names linked to the accounts into which their salaries are paid.