The Federal Government has uncovered 62,892 ghost workers, an exercise from which the government has been able to save over N208.7bn.
This, the government said was made possible following the introduction of Government Integrated Financial Management Information System and Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, new systems of payment recently introduced.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonja-Iweala, stated this on Tuesday in Abuja, during a lecture with the theme, ‘Preventing leakages in the Nigerian Economy’, organised by the Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, an organ of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, following the gradual rebound of crude oil prices, the Minister said she would be engaging members of the National Assembly this week to sort out a few areas in the 2015 budget.
She also explained strategies the government had adopted to tackle corruption in pension and emoluments of civil servants.
Already, 14 persons, who were attempting to outsmart the system in pensions and government efforts at fighting ghost workers, are to face trial for blocking government reforms.
The Minister said that there were frantic efforts by some special interests within the civil service who were benefitting from the loopholes in the system to block the systems initiated by the government including GIFMIS.
While giving a detailed account of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration performance and anti-corruption efforts, she stated that taming the monster of graft had become a priority for government to remain on track.
Okonja-Iweala said, “Corruption has been with us and we must crack it. We need to stop impunity, we have to constantly tackle corruption for us to stop the leakages. There are efforts to prevent all avenues where corrupt practices thrive in government circles.
“Putting systemic checks in place remains the best strategic way of tackling corruption and solving the root causes of corruption. If you don’t fix this system, the next people that will come in will continue with the current system. And we are putting in place a system to stop corruption.”
Okonja-Iweala who spoke on the recent forensic audit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by PriceWater Coopers, said it had shown clearly the existing gaps in tackling corruption in the oil sector.
According to her, the Federal Government has “ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to return the funds” as soon as possible.
When asked about her expectation of the 2015 budget, the minister said, “It will now depend on the final scenario and we are going to be discussing it with the National Assembly this week. You know at $65, we had a scenario; so let us wait.
“Whatever the benchmark we come up with, together with the National Assembly, we will know exactly our borrowing plan.”
She said the present administration had done so much to block various means through which government resources were being stolen.
The Minister said, “When we talk of corruption, we had a system that is cash-based. For example, when we want to pay salaries we will send money to Ministry of Agriculture and say here is your money, pay your people. For Education Ministry, this is your money, pay your people. Yes, that is what we were doing before.
“Whereas, if we had electronic platform there will be no transfer of cash. That is what we have done. Now with the introduction of GIFMIS such avenue has been blocked. What does it do? It transfers money electronically from budget to Accountant-General; from Accountant-General to Ministries, Departments and Agencies. And guess what in December: remember that salaries were delayed.
“There was a problem. Everybody thought the economy was broke. But what happened was that 14 agencies that were on GIFMIS tried to pay more and utilize more than what was programmed, the system locked them out. And they could not pay one person in their agencies. The President was initially worried but when I now told him the reason, there was smile on his face. He said, ‘so we have a system that can do that’ and I said yes.”