Nigeria can’t trace sponsors of ghost workers that defraud government of N100bn, Okonjo-Iweala says

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Government wants Nigerians to come up with ideas on how to fish out ghost workers on its pay roll.

The Nigerian government has been unable to trace any of its officials responsible for introducing about 45,000 ghost workers into the government’s payroll that cost the nation over N100 billion, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said this in Abuja on Thursday during a media briefing on the 2013 budget.

Her colleague, Yerima Ngama, the Minister of State for Finance, had said last month that the federal government discovered over 45,000 ghost workers on its payroll after auditing 153,019 government workers.

The audit was executed in January on 215 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, of the Federal Government.

“What we have done so far, we have covered 215 MDAs and we have discovered 45,000 ghost workers and that has reduced the total bill by about N100 billion,’’ Mr. Ngama said.

A month after Mr. Ngama made the statement, no official has been held responsible for the fraud.

Unable to catch fraudsters

While responding to a PREMIUM TIMES enquiry during the media briefing, the finance minister said the government was still trying to identify the culprits.

“We haven’t caught anybody. I can’t tell you that today we have one person yet,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said. “But, it is something that is exercising our minds that if we are getting this, we must try to trace how some of these things are entering. If we don’t, they may enter again.”

The Minister appealed to journalists and Nigerians to suggest ways of identifying the officials responsible for the fraud.

“It’s something we have been thinking about how to get to. So, if you have any ideas of how people do this, please share with us. We are open to information,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said.

She said the government was baffled about how the names of the ghost workers always manage to get into the pay systems of the MDAs.

“It may be a little difficult to identify who has actually put the names of the ghost workers in the system,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said. “We (federal government) cannot verify the details of the person, because there is no biometric information. What is obvious is that there is someone there who is not real. But how their names got into the system, from which MDA (ministry, department or agency) they came is a little more difficult to trace.”

The minister said the federal government “hears stories of certain officers in the ministries slotting in names for themselves.”

“But how to ascertain that is something that is not very easy. What we have been asking ourselves is: How do we figure out who put in those names, so that they can be dealt with? It is a task that government has,” she said.

She explained that the government was working with some forensic auditors to find ways of resolving the problem; adding that periodic forensic audits and checks would continue to rid the system of the ghost workers.

Wage bill, a challenge

In his presentation at the briefing, the Director General of the Budget Office, Bright Okogu, said that one of the challenges of the 2013 budget was the huge wage bill, which doubled from about N800 billion in 2009 to N1.69 trillion this year; while the share of personnel cost as a percentage of aggregate expenditure increased from 27 per cent in 2005 to 35 per cent in 2013.

He identified infrastructure development, security, agriculture, education, and health as priority areas government plans to focus attention on to attain the transformation agenda of the present administration; primarily to create jobs and create the enabling environment for economic diversification.

On how government will cope with a higher crude oil price benchmark following the upward revision of the $75 per barrel proposed by the executive to $79 per barrel in the Appropriation Act, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said government has no option than to accept the situation and work with it to move the country forward.

The minister said that though she and members of the National Economic management Team, had opposed a crude price benchmark above $75 per barrel, in view of the growing uncertainty in the global economy and the need for prudence as a mono-commodity dependent country, government would take steps to evolve policies to mitigate the risks, by looking at ways to strengthen the economic system in the event of decline in prices.

“We were opposed to a higher benchmark price because of the need to build a buffer for the future when prices are high. But for the sake of moving the budget and Nigerians forward, we have decided to pick our fights and agreed to live with this benchmark, and next year we will have another more collaborative way of setting a benchmark that would work for all Nigerians,” she said.

She said government may be considering the adoption of the Chilean model, where an independent group, outside the executive and parliament, is established to set benchmarks in a professional manner for their export commodity, copper.

She denied that the budget was deliberately delayed to enable politicians scoop money for the 2015 elections, saying there was transparency in the budget process.


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  • Philemon A.

    The minister is a joker on this issue. Money is paid into somebody’s account with a name and the money is cashed. Yet we are told that the perpetrators can not be traced. Yaba! It is becoming very dangerous to be law abiding in Nigeria.

    • Enemona

      No, you don’t understand what the minister is saying. She meant they “can’t trace the sponsors” not that they’re not traceable. The sponsors are too big to trace!

  • Sorry for Nigeria

    They can’t catch anyone because they will be investigating themselves. Madam, minister you are also a suspect. Guys, we are not as dumb as you think.

    A file was created for these ghost workers otherwise how did they get the names, account numbers, e.t.c. The computer system also keeps a trace of the person that keyed in the information. Someone has to approve the salary payments every month, yet you tell me you can’t find out who’s defrauding Nigerians. Give me a break!!!!

  • Afam

    Madam you can trace them,keep the biometric exercise more in focus.

  • akpos1

    This is stupidity on the part of the Minister. Simple cock & bull story. How can you say you don’t know how to catch them or cant identify them? Do you pay these ghost workers cash? Do you pay them cheques? If any or both of the above, then who collects and signs? Hold that person responsible. Prick his testicles with sharp needles if a man & prick her …… with needles if a woman & s/he will confess. Simple!

    Yet, Ngozi a PhD holder says she needs info on how to catch them. Lest I forget, if they are the real ghosts, then that’s very easy, consult the oracles or the gods. But not in Illorin bcos their gods are in bondage ocassioned by the imperial Fulani.

    …but Ngozi’s situation underscores the futility of the Nigerian project….a continent being run as a country will always have such problems. Verily verily I say unto you, Nigeria is not a country but a continent. Break up NOW!!!

    Long live the United Republic of the SS&SE

  • Haba Madam O.O. They are traceable is it not in some state the names of Family memebers of Emirs and some top Government officials both active and retired were discovered. Immagine the wife of an elite, and their infant children sitting at home and public fund is credited to their account every month ending. While thousand of graduate willing to serve the Nation are deprived of that same package.
    Believe me they know the truth and what is going on, but they are afraid of mentioning names because most of them represent the interest of those Chiefs and Elite.
    Little by little we are making progress God will help us deal with them one by one.
    Let us be patient we the masses and continue praying, One day one day monkey go, go market e no go return.
    Let them continue taking us for fools!! We know and understand every thing.

  • igbiki

    na me place dem

  • Mustapha

    Let her invite Fashola or El-Rufa’i or Nuhu Ribadu to show the way to do it

  • BABAZARIA

    Haba Naija!!! If the workers are GHOSTS? What about the persons collecting the money, are they GHOSTS too? Abi na the money that they collect be GHOSTS???? Ebi like like say na we Nigerians una wan turn to GHOSTS Shebi!!! A beg let us be more serious, focused, patriotic and nationalistic for a Change.

  • Rommel

    What arrant nonsense talk is this and I thought that this lady had gray matter,I am not interested in how the names get in but I am interested in finding out what happens to the money,follow the money and you will know everything unless you tell me that the money is paid in cash at night in a guesthouses even at that follow the money

  • shamsu

    May be the sponsors too are ghosts that is why they are untraceable!

  • kenneth

    If they can detect 45 000 ghost workers surely they can find out who or those behind it. Telling Nigerias that they are helpless is an embarsssment to the country. They should sit up and do their jobs. All govt. Security apparatus are there for tjjem to employ and use in order discover the truth. The tjing is tjhat in this coumntry, whenever an issue has toddo with curruption govt always have excuses. For failure