When the Federal Government introduced and tested the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System (IPPIS) in seven of its ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in 2011, the result was a bombshell. In six months, the public service had saved N500 million in salaries of civil servants. Communication on the digital platform was swift, almost at the speed of light.
Last week, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Joe Abah, announced that IPPIS as a tool of the anti-corruption effort of the Federal Government has saved the country N160 billion since 2011. Speaking at the commemoration of the International Anti-Corruption Day in Abuja, he noted that the improvement in the ratings of Nigeria in the Transparency International Corruption index is an indication that the country’s fight against corruption is on course.
There is no arguing the fact that the continuing implementation of the IPPIS in the nation’s MDAs is one of the great achievements of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. It has streamlined the public service payment system and boosted the war against corruption, especially the ghost worker syndrome.
The question that is, however, agitating the minds of many Nigerians is why the scheme has not been implemented in all public service institutions in the country. Indeed, if IPPIS is so efficient and effective, why has it not been implemented in all the MDAs in the country?
We cannot but recall that on July 23, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan directed that MDAs must fully adopt the system by December 31, 2013. That deadline has come and gone, but there is yet no report of a full implementation of the scheme across board throughout the federal public service.
The case for the national adoption of IPPIS is compelling. In June 2013, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated that 215 MDAs, with 153,019 staff, were on IPPIS as of January 2013. She put the savings on payroll cost at that time at N118.9 billion, while work was ongoing to bring in other 321 MDAs not yet on IPPIS. She explained that about 46,821 ghost workers had also been identified. It was, indeed, discovered in 2013 that of the 10,000 workers believed to be employed by the Federal Ministry of Works, 5,167, that is nearly 52 per cent, were ghost workers. This is just one example of the good work of the IPPIS.
It is also not just ghost workers that had been caught by the IPPIS. Some 71,000 fake pensioners have been removed from the pension payroll of the Federal Government, thanks to the system.
State governments also have their own share of ghost workers. Katsina reported 9,000 ghost workers on its payroll two years ago; Oyo State, 7,000; Abia State 1,727; Kebbi State 2,800. There was the case of a dead teacher who received salaries for eight months in one state, while a fake commissioner was reportedly discovered in Plateau State. Some people on Grade Level 08 were receiving salaries meant for Grade Level 16 officers. Others with primary school certificates were retiring on Grade Level 14.
The IPPIS is so designed that it can be quickly deployed, has continuous capacity and its technical support is available worldwide. Indeed, the more MDAs were added, the better the system worked. In a rational world, one would expect all levels of government to rush to ensure blanket coverage of every inch of the public service. On the contrary, the implementation is not yet universal in the country. It appears that it is being stalled by all manner of excuses.
We are not unaware that effecting changes in the civil service is a daunting task. But, the IPPIS is a change that Nigeria sorely needs. This is even more so at this time that the crash in global oil prices has led to a sharp fall in revenue accruing to the government at a time that the country is facing critical challenges that require huge funding on several fronts, especially security and infrastructure.
This is the time for the government to address all hindrances to the full implementation of this system. All interests that may be stalling the full adoption of the scheme should be dealt with to save Nigeria huge sums in public service salaries. We urge the Federal and State Governments to set a final deadline for the full implementation of the IPPIS, with sanctions put in place for non-compliant MDAs.
The phenomenon of ghost workers has persisted owing to the lackadaisical attitude to the IPPIS. It is not possible that heads of departments do not know of the existence of ghost workers. In this regard, they are criminally liable for the offence. Someone has to take responsibility for non-compliance with IPPIS. It is called accountability.
Above all, accounting officers and their approving authorities in the MDAs must be held responsible for the ghost workers on their payrolls that cost the nation a staggering N118 billion. The law should be made to catch up with them.