Japa: Outrage as UK-based driver remains on FG payroll - Reportgist

Japa: Outrage as UK-based driver remains on FG payroll

Reportgist
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There was outrage on Sunday over a United Kingdom-based taxi driver, who remained on the Federal Government’s payroll despite migrating to the UK in 2022.>>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

Civil society organisations who spoke to The PUNCH on Sunday said the report was an indication of how deeply-rooted corruption was in the Nigerian civil service.

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President Bola Tinubu had last week ordered a crackdown on civil servants who were still collecting salaries despite migrating abroad.

“The culprits must be made to refund the money they have fraudulently collected,” he said.

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The BBC had on Sunday reported that a 36-year-old Nigerian civil servant, referred to as Sabitu Adams (not real name), who moved to the United Kingdom in 2022, was still collecting the salary of a civil servant.

‘Collecting N150,000 monthly’

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According to the report, despite working as a taxi driver in the UK, Adams disclosed to the BBC that he continues to receive N150,000 monthly from the government job in Nigeria due to an understanding with his boss.

He said, “When I heard about the President’s directive, I smiled because I know I am doing better here – and not worried.”

Adams said he thought he would probably return after spending some years abroad when asked why he refused to resign from his position after relocating to the UK.

“To be honest, I didn’t resign because I wanted to leave that door open in case I choose to go back to my job after a few years,” he said.

Corrupt civil service

Commenting on the case of the UK-based driver, civil society organisation emphasised the need for stringent measures to restore accountability and effectiveness within the civil service.

They called for the prosecution of those involved in unauthorised salary payments and urged the government to take decisive action to address this corruption.

The Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa, raised alarm over the pervasive corruption and lack of accountability within Nigeria’s civil service.

Musa stated, “I think the lack of accountability in governance is the crux of the matter because if people who are not supposed to collect salaries are still collecting, it can mean that some people are coordinating to short-change the nation.

“This can only happen because of the bastardisation of the civil service system. Everything is corrupted. A lot of people are getting these salaries and allowances without appearing in the office. I think corruption has undermined the effectiveness of the civil service in Nigeria,” he said.

Musa called for a comprehensive audit of workers and urged that those involved in these corrupt practices be held accountable.

On his part, the Executive Director of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, criticised the dereliction of duty by civil service leaders.

He stated, “It is an admission of dereliction of duty and it is enough for the Head of the Civil Service to be fired because it is her job to ensure that every civil servant is at his duty post at every particular time.

“They should supervise the supervisors, oversee the functioning of each officer, and render a performance index at the end of every day. The buck stops on her desk.”

Adeniran also called for accountability from the heads of agencies, departments, and key officials like the accountant general and auditor general. He stressed the importance of maintaining attendance registers and job performance records as references for salary processing.

He also said those who aided such practices should be handed over to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission for proper investigation and prosecution.

Also, the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, emphasised the need for consequences for those responsible.

He asked, “What is going to happen to the person that allowed it to happen? That is what the government should be asking. Extend it to those who benefited initially from the funds. If it is the Head of Service, the person should be dismissed. If the person is no longer in service, then appropriate actions must be taken.”

Similarly, the Executive Director of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Okechukwu Nwagunma, said the practice was unacceptable within the public service.

He stated, “If any public servant needs to travel out of Nigeria and stay away from work, there must be a permit.”

Biodun Sowunmi of the Think Tank Group, a democratic institute dedicated to ensuring the stability of democracy in Nigeria, attributed the situation to a total system breakdown.

Sowunmi urged the government to take decisive action to identify and punish those responsible for exploiting the country’s resources by taking advantage of the porous system.

He said, “We now have a situation whereby we have workers both in the state and federal civil service, but in reality, some of them are based abroad. Either they went for a quick job or they relocated abroad without their salaries being discontinued. This is a mark of corruption within the system.

“The new payment system introduced by the Federal Government was meant to address this. What is happening now shows the weakness in the system. It has not been able to stop the milking of the resources of the country by those who have migrated.

“It is not only these people who should be made to pay back but also those who are authorising the payment at the departmental level should also be made to face the music. How could they have been collecting salaries for a year and more without anybody not knowing?

“Whoever is in charge of certifying the payment of workers should also be culpable. All of those within the service who collaborated with these people should be prosecuted. The government should go all out to fish them out; otherwise, those conspiring to cheat the country would not desist from doing so.”

Also, the President of the Centre for Human and Social Economic Rights, Comrade Alex Omotehinse, said individuals would keep exploiting resources as long as anti-corruption agencies remained selective in their efforts to combat the corruption crisis in the country.

He noted, “That is what we are saying about how corruption has eaten deep into our policies, and the so-called anti-graft agencies are experts in selectiveness in the fight against corruption.

“It is obvious that the EFCC and ICPC only go after those that don’t play ball or have a godfather because it’s only when the person involved is not among the untouchables. First, the person who is paying must know about it. Secondly, the ministry or MDAs he belongs to must be questioned.”

Japa syndrome

Supporting others, the Executive Director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, Olusegun Elemo, highlighted that the japa syndrome was not limited to the federal level but affected various states and agencies.

“It is not particular to the Federal Government. I think there are multiple cases across different states of the federation and multiple agencies of government whether at the federal or state level.

“We cannot shy away from the Japa syndrome. It is affecting everybody and there are many young people in civil service as well,” Elemo remarked, stressing the need for comprehensive reforms.

He proposed that both federal and state governments, along with local authorities, should undertake thorough payroll audits.

These audits, he argued, are essential to identify discrepancies and ensure that public funds are properly managed.

Furthermore, Elemo suggested implementing performance assessments to evaluate the contributions of government personnel. This, he believed, would enhance productivity and accountability within the civil service.

“What the government needs to do; not just the federal government now but even the state government and local government, they need to conduct a payroll audit.

“Also, they can do some sort of performance assessment of the personnel that each of these charters of governments have to see who and who has been contributing to the pool of performance,” he said.

The issue of ghost workers in the federal civil service has been a persistent problem, with several notable cases highlighting the extent of the issue.

In June 2022, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms announced that the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System had identified and removed approximately 70,000 ghost workers, saving the government at least N220 billion.

In July 2020, the Ministry of Finance announced that it had identified over 50,000 ghost workers on the payroll of various federal ministries, departments, and agencies.

Also in 2018, the Federal Government found that there were ghost workers among the beneficiaries of the N-Power scheme, a social investment programme aimed at employing young Nigerians.

The discovery was made through the use of the Bank Verification Number system, which helped identify multiple accounts linked to a single individual.

The government uncovered an additional 11,000 ghost workers during an audit of its payroll system in May 2017. The effort was part of a continued crackdown on corruption and inefficiencies within the civil service. The audit was conducted using biometric data and other verification methods.

In March 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration discovered over 23,000 ghost workers on the federal payroll. The removal of the ghost workers reportedly saved the government about N2.29 billion monthly.>>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

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