Kogi State Auditor-General, Mr Okala Yusuf, has said that the state government lost N213 billion to 18, 211 ghost workers in the last 13 years,
He made the disclosure on Monday in Lokoja the state capital while presenting the report of the just concluded screening and verification exercise of the state workers carried out by the government.
He said that the ghost workers were discovered in Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) and in the 21 local government councils in the state.
He said that 7, 606 were discovered in the councils, 5,872 at the state level, while pensioners accounted for 1,040 of the ghost workers.
The AG said the exercise had reduced the joint workforce of the state and local governments from 88, 973 to 63, 870.
He added that the monthly wage bill had also been reduced from N5.8 billion to N4.6 billion.
Yusuf said that the 929 workers who were illegally employed in the state in 2015 and 2016 were also among those categorised as ghost workers.
He said that some workers categorised as being in the Diaspora, who had been collecting their salaries for years while residing in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and other cities across the country were also affected.
He said that the committee relied on employees’ biodata verification form and the Nigeria inter-bank payment settlement system to identify the ghost workers.
He accused some “vested interest” of muddling the report of the screening committee by omitting the names of 14, 147 genuine workers and replacing them with the names of unknown staff.
Yusuf, who served as chairman of the back up committee that reviewed the report of the screening committee, suggested the adoption of the integrated and automation payroll system to curb leakages.
The AG suggested the establishment of pre-disbursement audit unit before payment of salaries.
He said that all those who abetted or aided fraud in the workforce of the state and local governments should be identified and made to face the consequences of their actions.
Speaking after the presentation of the report, Governor Yahaya Bello said that the discovery had justified the good intention of the government to embark on the screening and verification.
He inaugurated a 15-member committee to review the report, saying that anybody with genuine complaint should channel it through the committee.
He promised to correct lopsidedness in the state civil service and block leakages.
He added: “Less than two per cent of the population should not be allowed to continue to corner the resources meant for 3.4 million people.
“This is unsustainable; the choice we have is to either reform the service or continue with the distortions in the socio-economic life of our people“.
He accused previous administrations in the state of abandoning governance, saying that his administration was determined to carry out comprehensive reforms of the civil service.
“This is a way of saying that we are not ready to continue with the past and put permanent stop to the syndrome of ghost workers,” he said.
While reiterating the determination of his administration to adhere strictly to the principles of transparency and accountability, Bello said that government would endeavour to enhance the capacity of the successful workers.