Fraud syndicates have for too long had a wonderful field day in the Imo State Civil Service. The state governor, Hope Uzodinma, highlighted this in a recent broadcast claiming that his administration had discovered 4,800 ghost workers since assuming office.
This has resulted in Imo saving a whopping ₦2 billion monthly. This amount, viewed against the backdrop of the ₦1.2 billion generated internally monthly, is a rip-off that epitomises the failure of governance.
For 10 years, 30,000 retirees have been on the pension payroll, implying that no pensioner died and no fresh retiree enrolled within the period under review. This is unlikely, suggesting fraud and manipulation of the roll. A typical civil service state, Imo has 27 local government areas with a combined workforce of 57,000 employees. Out of this figure, only 17,000 persons are captured in the income tax payment.
Ironically, the tax of any civil servant is deducted from salary before payment is made under the mandatory Pay-As-You-Earn system. That this fraud lasted this long unnoticed beggars belief. It strongly suggests that the actual strength of the state’s workforce is the 17,000 captured under PAYE. Indeed, some senior civil servants should be arrested to explain these irreconcilable differences.
The payroll heist, according to Uzodinma, was perpetrated with the use of the Bank Verification Number scheme.
He said, “Quite instructively, most of the infractions were committed through multiple entries of the same BVN for different names on the payroll. It is incredible to discover that some people earned salaries as civil servants and also earned pension as retirees.”
Why have these crooks and their accomplices in the banking system not been identified and punished accordingly?
Uzodinma should not over-praise himself for “discovering” ghost workers because preceding administrations charted the same course.
Like his predecessors, he has failed a critical test of leadership by not invoking the instrumentality of the law to deal with the situation immediately.
Payroll fraud of this magnitude is brazen criminality that will only abate if the fraudsters are identified, prosecuted, and forced to return their fraudulent gains.
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