Ghost workers are individuals who receive salary from an organization without showing up for work or who may not exist but their salaries are appropriated by someone else. 

Federal, state and local governments in the country pay hundreds of millions of naira monthly to thousands of non-existent workers captured in their respective payrolls, thereby draining the governments of resources that could have been channeled into other productive ventures.

In 2011, for example, several state governments reported that they discovered six hundred to twenty thousand ghost workers on their payrolls.

The ghost worker phenomenon remains a menace troubling successive administrations at the federal and state levels.

For instance, former president, Goodluck Jonathan identified a solution to the scourge by setting up the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, thus saving the federal government billions of naira paid annually to imaginary workers.

In February last year, President Muhammadu Buhari revealed that nearly five hundred and fifty million dollars has been saved from identifying ghost workers on the federal government’s payroll in the past four years.

Other states which recently uncovered the scourge include Kogi, Bauchi and Ekiti.

As a way of checking the recurring menace, some states have had to conduct biometric capturing of workers now and then to track the actual number of workers on their payroll.

No doubt, ghost workers increase the wage bill of government workforce above the wage budget which leads to budget overruns.

This phenomenon is worrisome as there would have been tremendous progress if the national wealth looted by those involved over the years had been channeled into education, health, power, agriculture, transportation and other sectors of the economy.

It is worth pointing out that, while the federal and state governments have always unraveled ghost workers, they have not recorded the same success in unmasking the architects of the economic crime, who must be people within the system, and apparently highly placed officials.

To nip the problem in the bud, government should not just engage in forensic auditing of the workforce but also go the long stretch of fishing out the culprits through thorough investigation by the police and other relevant agencies.

It is also imperative that periodic census of public service personnel and the maintenance of records of all official personnel including sacks, retirements and deaths, be strengthened. 

The achievement recorded through the use of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, initiated by the federal government in April 2007, which is saddled with the responsibility of payment of salaries and wages directly to government employee’s bank account with appropriate deductions and remittances has been notable.

States need to consider employing the milestone initiative for tracking financial flow to workers in agencies and departments in order to block leakages arising from phantom workers.

Above all, transparency and accountability remain essential to solving ghost workers challenges and nipping the menace in the bud.

Olusola Otunuga


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