How Federal Medical Centre paid N229 million to “ghost workers”, diverted N8.3 billion — Audit report

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The management of the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, Nasarawa State, paid N229 million to “ghost workers” between 2016-2019, the report of the Auditor-General of the Federation has revealed.

This was one of the several infractions listed against the centre in the 2019 report of the Auditor-General.

According to the annual report, a sum of N229, 391,842 was paid to some unknown staff through the GIFMIS platform in 2016.

One of the said ‘ghost’ staff received allowances and salaries nine times in a day.

The report stated that none of those names could be found on the nominal payroll of the hospital after an examination.

The report said the action is against the financial regulations, which state that “a public officer who authorises the payment of public fund to ghost worker and/or knowingly processes such payment, shall be charged for gross misconduct, removed from the schedule and reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

However, the centre in its response to the query by the OAuGF, said the personnel files of the affected staff featured in the observation have been submitted for verification.

The management of the hospital blamed the GIFMIS platform for any irregularities in the payment system, adding that “the hospital does not keep any ghost worker on its payroll and the GIFMIS platform is a system that was deployed to detect issues of this nature with adequate safeguards provided by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.”

Despite the explanation by FMC Keffi, the report directed the Chief Medical Officer to “furnish reasons for recruiting ghost workers and to provide evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the above-listed names are not ghost workers”.

The report also recommended that the personnel file of the staff, containing appointment letters, file numbers, IPPIS numbers and other relevant credentials be sent to the public account committees of the National Assembly.

It also said the money paid should be recovered to the treasury, while the officer that authorised the payment be sanctioned.

The menace of ghost workers remains a recurring issue in the federal civil service.

President Muhammadu Buhari had announced that the deployment of IPPIS had helped to save $500 million following the removal of several ghost workers from the Federal Government’s payroll system.

In addition, the report also indicted the hospital for diverting N4.2 billion budgeted for personnel between 2016, 2017 and 2018.

According to the auditor general, within three years, the hospital could not account for the N4.2 billion budgeted for non-regular personnel.

Commenting on the alleged diversion, the auditor-general’s report said the medical director of FMC embarked on copious transfer of funds appropriated for non-regular allowances from the GIFMIS to the TSA remitta and purportedly spent on capital and overhead expenditure which could not be ascertained by the audit team.

The auditor-general added that prepayment checks could not be done, as there was no voucher raised for the payment.

The auditor noted that the anomalies could be attributed to weakness in the internal control system at the medical centre, noting that the expenditures may have been fictitious.

While responding to the query, the management of the FMC stated again that the GIFMIS and TSA are domiciled at the office of the accountant-general, adding that “FMC Keffi has little or no direct control over transfers from one platform to the other. The hospital can only pay its revenue into TSA of the federal government but has no control over transfer from same. The same applies to GIFMIS where the centre cannot transfer funds from personnel to overhead or capital for award of contract as observed by the audit team.”

Consequently, the report recommended that the hospital should provide evidence of utilisation.

The report also flagged another N1.3 billion payment made via 195 separate payments. According to the audit report, most of the payments were made the same day. Payment vouchers were raised, but competitive bidding was not done.

The report further stated that the existence of the companies and the status were not known.

The expenditure may be fictitious, the OAuGF said.

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Responding to the query, the management offered the same explanation that the Accountant-General’s office should be asked about the payment, and also decried the use of “fictitious” in the statement.

“We take exception to the use of unprofessional language like “ficticious” by the office on the Centre.”

The report also indicted the hospital for diversion of N2.8 billion into public pockets.

The chief medical director was mandated to refund the money back to treasury or justify the payment.

The report raised 25 issues against the FMC.

FMC Keffi is among many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government indicted and queried by the Auditor-General for incessant violation of extant rules, some of which include non-retirement of personal advances within a financial year and grant of cash advances above the approved limit and payments without vouchers.

The Auditor-General, in the report, said these financial offences could translate to loss of government funds and/or diversion of public funds.

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