Dead men working – The Nation

  • Bauchi State may still find more ghost workers prowling in its system

With the discovery of 596 dead workers receiving salaries in Bauchi State, the last is yet to be heard of ghost workers in the country. And this should be surprising given all the innovations being adopted at all levels to plug the loopholes exploited by perpetrators of the criminal act.

The state government said sometime ago that over 41,448 of workers on its payroll were without bank verification numbers (BVNs).  In fact, Governor Bala Mohammed subsequently set up a 17-member panel, headed by Adamu Gumba, to investigate the situation.

Gumba told journalists at a press conference that in the course of their assignment which lasted about three months, no fewer than 4,578 persons failed to appear before the committee for verification.  He said 24,736 people, including state workers and local government workers as well as pensioners, who had been verified and cleared by the committee had started receiving their salaries and allowances.

Those who could not appear for verification in the first exercise should be given a second chance, after which, if they still failed to turn up, they could be regarded as complicit in the fraud unless they produce convincing evidence to the contrary.

If only about 24,736 people had been verified, with 596 dead workers discovered to be receiving pay, the figure of ghost workers in the state would definitely be higher by the time the entire state work-force, local government workers and pensioners, numbering about 130,000 are verified. “If we can uncover ghost workers from the 30,226 verified, how much more will be discovered if the entire number was verified?” Gumba, a Bauchi-South former senator asked rhetorically.

Although the issue of ghost workers is not peculiar to Bauchi State, the fact is, the same factors that make the practice thrive in Bauchi are probably the raison d’être in most other states and even at the federal level. Were the 41,448 workers on the state’s payroll without BVN not being paid through the banks?  How come the workers were being paid without BVN?

Clearly, there is a not-too-clever attempt by those paying such workers to sidetrack due process. Not-too-clever because ordinarily, someone along the line would have pointed out this sidetracking of the process and stalled payment but for the connivance of some people in the relevant sections involved in the payment, including the banks.

This is what happens in most instances of ghost workers. There are cartels that facilitate such payments even when they know that the process has been short-circuited. Interestingly, these cartels are hardly unveiled when ghost workers are detected.

Even in the Bauchi case, the verification committee only released figures as to how many workers the state and local governments have, how many did not have BVN, how many failed to turn up for verification, etc. but was silent on how the frauds were perpetrated not to talk of who and who were culpable.

This has been the pattern in almost all cases of ghost workers. Yet, we all know that neither ghosts nor dead workers could have been paid nor paid themselves. Some people cooked up the names of the ghosts and the dead workers, got and shared the money supposedly paid to them.

Bauchi State government must insist on having a more comprehensive report to include the accounts, personnel, audit and even bank workers who aided and abetted the frauds. This, indeed, should be the pattern whenever government or its agencies are telling us that they have uncovered ghost workers and have saved so much from such exercise.

It is not enough to regale us with such incomplete details; it is equally important that those who facilitated the frauds are fished out and prosecuted. It is only when this is done that we can begin to see an end to the ghost or dead workers’ phenomenon.

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