By Adebayo Abubakar.
The menace of ghost worker in the public service is as old as public service itself, in Nigeria.
Every successive government comes and regale whoever cares to listen, with how much of public fund has been saved or recovered, through the uncovering of syndicate of racketeers who infuse names of non-existent employees on the payroll, with a view to cornering the salary purportedly paid to these non-existent individuals.
Governments at all levels have at one time or the other, embarked on staff audit with a view to ascertaining how many people are actually in the employ of the government’s, so as to determine how much is the exact amount goes out as emoluments.
This is done every four years, when a new governor or president assumes office, mostly, to discredit their predecessors, especially, the immediate ones.
I used the word “discredit”, because, since they have been doing it (HR audit), nobody has been prosecuted. The only thing they use the “result” for, mostly is to throw around humongous figures at campaign rally, that has either been diverted or misappropriated.
Meanwhile, at least, somebody pays; somebody receives, the salary, in cases where they pay by hand. How it is such a difficult task to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators beats my imagination!
The Accountant, cashier, and of course, the Director of Personnel Management, should hace the record of every staffer, and should therefore, be made to answer some hard questions, with a view to unravelling the identities of those behind the illicit act.
But all we hear is that, hundreds of “Ghost workers” have been uncovered, blah blah blah..!
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, for instance, upon assumption of office, in 2016, embarked on a never-ending Staff Audit, which report was neither made public till today, nor anybody indicted and prosecuted. Many pensioners died in the process either through motor accident or being kidnapped, as they shuttle between their bases and Lokoja, the State Capital. The story is no different in every other State of the federation.
So the cycle continues. Only Heaven knows what his successor would come up with,come 2024.
The perpetrators have been this successful because, they have so far resisted every suggestion and frustrated every attempt to digitalise the financial processes in the public sector, so that, the existence of “digital footprint” that would make every fraud traceable, can be establish.
If funds are moved electronically, tracing who got what, will be much easier than when physical cash exchanges hands. But these unscrupulous elements keep frustrating every attempt at going electronic, when it comes to financial transactions. They have become so entrenched in the system that, it takes much more than uncovering, to put them out of business.
So when the Kwara State Government, through its official and verified twitter handle @followKWSG, yesterday, 23rd of May 2021, tweeted that;
“Kwara uncovers unlawful payments to disengaged teachers.
·Payroll integrity not negotiable: AbdulRazaq
Kwara State Governor @RealAARahman has received a report of the committee that investigated the unlawful salary payment to 48 disengaged sunset teachers for the month of March. https://t.co/Y7IPKbfzIh”,
It got me thinking, as to, whether or not, Kwara State Governor, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq would dare to be different, from the rest of his peers (35 of them) and his predecessors, and follow the process, from this uncovering to, prosecuting, the culprit, who are obviously in the system, and have been there for decades.
But a part of my mind keeps telling me that, it would be a herculean task for him or any Governor for that matter to prosecute such a culprit, for reasons that bother on ethno-religious affinity, without political consequences.
The reason is not far-fetched. The way the psychology of an average Nigerian is wired is that, his unalloyed loyalty first, to his ethno-religious group, before he remembers or considers Nigeria.
No Governor in Nigeria can embark on that, without him being subjected to a subtle political blackmail, either by the ethno-religious group of the identified culprit, or the political cabal to which he (the culprit) is loyal.
Be that as it may, one expects Governor Abdulrazaq to call the bluff and go, the whole hog to prosecute, anybody found culpable, to serve as a deterrent to others who are still in the system, waiting for their own “opportunity”, to “eat”.
History is beckoning on the Governor to etch his name in gold, in the anal of history of the State, as the one who thoroughly investigated the racket of ghost workers; unravel the identity of the racketeers and diligently prosecuted them, to serve as a strong signal to others who are yet to be caught, it is not going to be business as usual; rather, it would be business unusual.
Adebayo Abubakar writes from Ilorin.