Benue state government has confirmed that changes to its payroll for January 2018 was as a result of a verification exercise which exposed fraud to the tune of N3.7billion in its remuneration system.
The exercise was conducted by a screening committee set up by the Samuel Ortom-led administration to examine the bloated wage bill of the state and the problem of ghost workers.
In addition to earlier discoveries, the Salary Verification Committee in January 2018 uncovered a N3.5billion fraud in the salaries of seven of the state’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), with staff strength of 8,913.
Now in its second phase, the committee was given a mandate to examine the state’s payroll from June 2015 to April 2017.
According to Tertsegha Ikyaabo, chairman of the committee and retired permanent secretary, the sum of N1.4 billion was also discovered to have been wrongly paid to some workers in 60 MDAs from June 2015 to October 2016. This discovery was after the verification of 10,300 staff in the MDAs.
These milestones were made possible through the technology provided by Remita and the support of its consultants in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance.
This revelation comes ahead of the invitation extended by the Benue House of Assembly to key officers of the state’s Ministry of Finance, including the Commissioner for Finance, Head of Service, and the Remita consultants, as part of their oversight responsibilities.
The committee also disclosed that N301. 7 million had been wrongly paid to workers who did not show up at verification exercises and were unknown. Similarly, the report of the committee revealed that retired workers whose names should no longer be on the payroll received N619.6 million.
The committee also removed from the payroll employees that got into the system through the backdoor, and demoted those that had been promoted without requisite professional and academic qualifications based on various service schemes.
The cleaned data, reviewed and approved by the Commissioner for Finance, was used for salary payment in January 2018. According to the Ikyaabo, “with the updated data, our payroll process is much easier, eliminates possibilities of fraud, and better positions the state to meet its obligations to its employees.”