The Nigerian government has removed nearly 24,000 employees from its payroll after an audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari revealed the civil servants did not exist, the country’s finance ministry said Sunday. The move has allowed the federal government to save about $11.5 million from its monthly wage bill.
The audit began in December 2015 using biometric data and a bank verification number, or BVN, to identify the account holders into which government salaries were being deposited. This revealed that the names of some workers receiving salaries did not match up to the names linked to the bank accounts. In some instances, individuals were getting paid from multiple sources.
“The federal government has removed 23,846 non-existent workers from its payroll,” Festus Akanbi, special adviser to Nigerian Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun stated. “Consequently the salary bill for February 2016 has reduced by NGN2.293b when compared to December 2015 when the BVN audit process commenced.”
Akanbi said the finance ministry had so far checked the details of some 312,000 government workers. Going forward, the finance would assume “periodic checks and utilize computer-assisted audit techniques” and also introduce stricter monitoring of new entrants to the civil service to prevent further abuse of the payroll system. Personnel costs currently take up more than 40% of Nigeria’s total government expenditure.
The finance minister, Adeosun, took office in November and set up an efficiency unit soon after to cut costs as part of Buhari’s efforts to crack down on corruption and mismanagement, which have long hindered development in Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer. Since taking office in May, Buhari has vowed to recover federal revenue looted by corrupt officials.