The Federal Government has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to enforce the use of Bank Verification Number, BVN, in Microfinance Banks, amid suspicions that fraudulent government employees have set up “ghost workers” accounts in MFBs to avoid detection.
The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in a correspondence to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, said the introduction of the BVN has immensely improved the integrity of the Federal Government payroll, from which more than 50,000 ghost workers had been detected.
Mrs. Adeosun however said operating bank accounts in MFBs without requirement for BVN has left a huge loophole for those who hide and launder proceeds of crime to escape detection by law enforcement agencies.
“Our ongoing efforts to verify the integrity of Federal Government personnel costs and purge the system of fraud and error has made extensive use of the Bank Verification Number as a means of identifying recipients of multiple salaries, and salaries paid into accounts with names that differ from those held on our payroll records. The success of this effort has to date yielded the removal of over 50,000 payroll entries,” the Minister said.
Mrs. Adeosun told the CBN governor that prior to the deadline for obtaining the BVN by bank customers, a large number of salary accounts of Federal employees were found to have been moved from commercial banks to microfinance banks, which did not require the use of BVN.
“This is a suspicious activity, and we have already commenced a review of such cases to identify and investigate any cases of fraud,” the Minister said.
Although the minister said extending the requirement for BVN to microfinance banks may impose a huge financial strain on the smaller microfinance banks, the Minister pointed out that “some MFBs, such as National Police Force Microfinance, NPF, have over 27,000 salary accounts. Our inability to perform checks on such a large number of salary earners is a key risk.”
“I am therefore seeking your co-operation to enforce compliance with BVN on any MFB with over 200 active salary accounts, or those above a certain size. This will support the Federal Government’s efforts at reducing leakages to create headroom for the capital projects that will support the growth of the economy,” the Minister said.
The CBN had earlier announced its intention to extend the requirement for the extension of the BVN to MFBs in September 2016 but has delayed the measure.