The effect of IPPIS in the control of payroll fraud in Nigeria public sector
1.1: Background to the Study
The study on implementation of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and Administration of the Nigerian Federal Civil Service was motivated by our concern over the years for efficient and effective service delivery in our public life. The dynamy of our modern welfare and service delivery has inevitably called for instrumentality of the attendant good governance values of accountability, probity, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and prudence. Essentially, as we all know, public service is meant to deliver goods and services to the citizenry at the right time and accessible degree. The goods and services are expected to be delivered in the most efficient and effective manner to the satisfaction of the beneficiaries, such that the basic values of good governance are demonstrated in the management of public business.
The civil service which is the integral part of public service has inadvertently tend to fail the government of modern complex, dynamic, and technologically driven administration, hence the instrumentality of reform programmes in the public service in the past few decades in Nigeria.
At present, various countries are in the struggle to better their existence through the process of good governance and responsible public service for effective and efficient service delivery. Nigeria, of course is one of such countries. In the past, the civil service which is an integral part of public service was the darling of applicants who saw it as a place to make contributions towards good governance and economic growth of the nation. It is the pillar that sharpens the direction of national goals and aspirations (Ahmad, 2005). Many joined the service because of job security, efficient career progression and self-contentment from realistic wage, but later, the system became bastardised with the fear of victimization and sudden retrenchment which make the public service vulnerable to political interference and weakness to give genuine advice and sincere recommendation on policy issues (Ahmad, 2005).
Right from the beginning, one needs to realize that the civil service has remained a key instrument in the persistence and consolidation of any governmental and indeed, actualization of national development. Thus, the effectiveness and productivity of any government is largely determined by the efficiency of the civil service (Beetseh, 2010:91). As the administrative and technical support to the governing apparatus, the civil service remains the viable mechanism for policy initiation or formulation. This probably explains why O’Connel (1981: 164) aptly posited that “political leadership without administrative and technical support is power in a vacuum; and administration without political leadership is only tidiness in stagnation.” This simply implies that the civil service is a sine-qua-non in any governmental setting, because it constitutes the engine of development. The civil service as the engine of governance is vital to the translation of government policies into tangible programmes of action for attainment of the goals of social and economic transformation. It provides the administrative machinery of governance through which the agenda of political leaders are implemented (Sali, 2012).
Unequivocally, just like in the developed nations, civil service has always been the tool available to African governments for the implementation of developmental goals and objectives. It is seen as being crucial to the growth and development of African economy (Fatile, et al, 2010:145). It is however further argued by Fatile and his associates (2010) that the hitherto conservative international financial institutions were merely interested in globalizing the neo-liberal economy for the interest of powerful global capital, and not in promoting autonomous development, which is not what Africa needs for economic progress.
The current drive to improve management in government through public service reform programmes which aims at increasing efficiency, effectiveness, and the delivery of quality service to the public is common to many African countries, including Nigeria. It is pertinent to note that public administration has moved away from being mere watchman, to being the engine of the society and the major provider of various services, including regulatory and distributive ones. Generally, all societies have some forms of public service provisions for reasons of economic, risks, and moral responsibility. Governments in many parts of the world are structurally and constitutionally tied to the civil service, irrespective of the system of government (Olagboye, 2005:105). This, according to Agagu (2008) explains why the relationship between the government and the public in Nigeria endured in spite of the various reforms Nigeria has been experimenting since independence. Indeed, it has been argued that at independence in 1960, the civil service in Nigeria was regarded as one of the most important legacies of some sixty years of British rule (Gboyega and Abubakar, 1989:129). Moreover, given the performance of the public service in the first few years of independence, there was great hope that the expectation of Nigerians for rapid socio-economic development would be fulfilled with reasonable efficiency. This was because giant strides were taken in the provision of infrastructural and capital investments (Agagu, 2008:243). It is instructive to note that by the mid 1980s, the Nigerian public service was far from being ideal. It was tradition-bound, somewhat ponderous and showing signs of deterioration. Indeed, at that point in time, the civil service was displaying a patent inability to cope effectively with the changes of modern complex, and development hungry society (Adegoroye, 2006).
The ills of the Nigerian public service have been identified at various times. About two decades ago, the Ayida panel, which was instituted to review past public service reforms in Nigeria with a view to proffering measures to further re-invigorating the service, identified the major ills of the service, which needed to be corrected to improve the dynamism and effectiveness of the civil service. Adegoroye (2006) identified among others, politicization of the top hierarchy of the civil service; lack of financial accountability and probity; perpetual breakdown of discipline; virtual institutionalization of corruption at all levels and segments of the service; disregard for rules and regulations; loss of direction; and general decline of efficiency and effectiveness in the civil service, as some of the challenges of the civil service delivery in Nigeria.
In a similar line of thought, many scholars and public commentators such as Ahmad (2005), Lawal and Oluwatoyin (2011:61) and Nwanolue and Iwuha (2012:79) tend to criticize the performances of the public service in the recent years. According to Lawal, and Oluwatoyin (2011:26), the civil service today is a battered institution which has virtually lost its attributes of anonymity, neutrality and security in tenure; an institution in which moral has reached its nadir, in which excessive caution, undue bureaucratic practice and interminable delays have become the hall marks. The institution is seemingly resistant to dynamic change and has become the object of constant public criticism (FRN, 1988).
In the contributions of Ahmad (2005: 3), the then Head of Service of the Federation opined that, “the service was often perceived as a corrupt, outdated in technology, lacking in creativity, slow in responding to issues, and structurally weak…….”.
Furthermore, the then Chairman of the Public Service Reform Team, (PSRT), El-Rufai (2007: 5) maintained that “the Nigerian Public Service is now seen as employer of the dull, the lazy and the venal. It is therefore incontestable that the public service became dysfunctional following years of neglect and failure to reform. The public service was both large and unwieldy, accountability was weak and professional standards low…..”.
With this general condemnation of the performance of the public service, the need to improve on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the public service through administrative reforms became imperative. Thus, the idea of setting up several reform programmes by various governments in Nigeria became necessary and relevant. The eventual establishment of Bureau of Public Service Reforms in 2003 by the Federal Government to coordinate the activities of reform programmes and the establishment of IPPIS in 2006 further substantiates its significance.
Thus, over the past decades, there has been a host of reform initiatives to bring about changes in government service delivery system with a view to providing efficient, effective and responsive service to the citizenry. These reforms have been concentrated on creating an efficient civil service focused on the need for provision of high quality service to the public (Fatile, et al 2010:148).
It is pertinent to note that almost all African countries are caught in the web of public sector reform. Good governance and efficient public administration are regarded as a wishful thought without public sector reform. Also, accountability, transparency and merit driven public service are thought to be unachievable except programmes of public sector reform are drawn up, and efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness of government to the yearnings of its citizens could only be gauged through the lenses of the public sector reform (Omoyefa, 2008).
To ensure the effective coordination of the reform implementation process, a monumental step was taken by the Nigerian government. For the first time in the history of reform management in Nigeria, an agency was created to drive the reforms. The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) was established in 2003 but however came into effect in 2004 to rectify earlier trends wherein several reforms were implemented concurrently within the Federal service without a central platform for technical and administrative coordination, and has been on the agenda since then. As noted by Obasanjo (2005), who mooted the idea of the institution:
The reform of the civil service is one of the central themes of government’s agenda. For without a transparent and effective civil service, government business and service delivery to the public will be crippled and mired in dishonesty and graft. I am convinced that an efficient, transparent, and accountable civil service should be the hallmark of our democratic transformation and development. The Nigerian people deserve nothing less.
The return to democratic governance in 1999 in Nigeria witnessed reform efforts targeted at improving the macro-economic environment, pursuing structural reforms, strengthening public expenditure management and implementing institutional and governance reform (BPSR, 2009). Government has achieved remarkable results from the various initiatives which have been implemented under the Public Service Reform Programme (PSRP) aimed at improving governance in the public service. The quality of human resources management information is a key determinant of government effectiveness.
The capacity to effectively manage the public service and track account for employee costs enables government to achieve its national objectives of modernization, improved transparency, accountability and service delivery (Asia, 2009).
The Federal Government in order to entrench a viable public service in Nigeria, under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006, supported by World Bank, established a wide-ranged public service reform programme starting with civil service reform in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). Reform in these MDAs relies upon a minimum set of standards across the civil service, and in turn provide a platform for launching broader public service reforms (FGN, 2007).
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on assumption of duty in 2007 was driven by passion to continue with Obasanjo development agenda through reforms. Accordingly, he identified core areas of concern by which his administration hoped to carry on with the development objectives of the country. These areas are classified under the president’s 7-points agenda.
In order to achieve this, the president required an efficient development plan that targets the year 2020. Thus, both Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) and the National Planning Commission (NPC) worked and produced long-term plans which include; a new National Strategy for Public Service Reforms (NSPSR); and a national development plan for vision 2020.
According to BPSR (2009), the NSPSR has four pillars and they include:
- Creating an enabling institutional and governance environment;
- An enabling socio-economic environment;
- Public finance management reform; and
- Civil service and administration reform;
The role of implementation of the IPPIS Scheme in the entire public service belongs to one of the eight targets of pillar (iv) above, and is the focus of this study. Critical to this programme is the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) was mandated to coordinate the reform process within the government, and also had oversight responsibility for the IPPIS project. The purpose of IPPIS project was to procure, implement and integrate solution that would:
- Improve the effectiveness and efficiency in transactional services;
- Enhances the confidence in payroll costs and budgeting;
- Greatly improve management reporting and information (World Bank Report, 2012).
The IPPIS, which is an ICT-based system is a principal component of the public sector reform initiative that was designed to achieve a set of objectives. These objectives include to:
- Facilitate planning: Having all the civil service records in a centralized database will aid manpower planning as well as assist in providing information for decision making;
- Aid Budgeting: An accurate recurrent expenditure on emoluments could be planned and budgeted for on a yearly basis;
- Monitor the monthly payment of staff emoluments against what was provided for in the budget to ensure convenient staff remuneration payment with minimum leakages and wastages;
- Ensure database integrity so that personnel information are correct and intact using database integrity constraints that built into ICT-based system that once entered cannot be manipulated by unauthorized This will prevent alteration of sensitive employee data like dates of birth and appointment;
- Eliminate payroll fraud, such as the ghost workers syndrome where a non-existing employee is being paid monthly; multiple payments of emoluments to a single employee; and credentials falsification;
- Facilitate easy storage, uploading and retrieval of personnel records for administrative and pension processes;
- Provide a good working environment that is conducive and supportive to the operations of modern, proactive service that is innovative and technologically driven (OAGF: IPPIS Operational Manual, 2008).
The IPPIS reform which brought about this positive development was approved by the Federal Executive Council in February, 2006, but however commenced work in April, 2007. It is however pertinent to note that, at the time the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) announced that in a bid to “entrench transparency and accountability in the human resource, records and payroll administration”, and the government consequent introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), many Nigerians were skeptical about its success (Nigeria: FG’s New Integrated Payroll, 2011).
The IPPIS introduced in the Federal Service was a major step towards reforming and transforming the service for better service delivery in the country. The IPPIS is an enterprise-wide, integrated, computerize and efficient human resource management information system that is used by the ministries, departments, agencies and local governments to undertake human resource management activities from recruitment to separation, including payroll and pension processing. The IPPIS is designed to make use of modern information and communication technologies to help the government manage the human resource of the public service more efficiently and effectively.
The IPPIS project which started as a World Bank-assisted programme under the Economic Reforms and Governance Project (ERGP) was instituted to provide a reliable and comprehensive database for the public service; facilitate manpower planning; eliminate record and payroll fraud; facilitate easy storage, update and retrieval of personnel records for administration and pension processes; and facilitate staff remuneration payment with minimal wastage and leakages (BPSR, 2009).
Generally, the central aim of IPPIS project is to strengthen the macroeconomic and fiscal environment with specific objectives to improve efficiencies and block all leakages and wastages in the payroll system. In other words, the IPPIS project is targeted at improving macroeconomic environment, strengthening public expenditure management, and promoting public accountability and probity, and ensuring efficient service delivery in the public service.
According to BPSR (2009), IPPIS is a computerized biometric platform intended to provide a reliable and comprehensive database of employees in the public service to facilitate manpower planning and eliminate headcount and payroll fraud. IPPIS was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), and implemented in phases. The first phase (pilot phase) covering seven MDAs and the central management organizations of the public service took off in April 2007, saving N416 million from the payroll in its first month. The said pilot Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) in the IPPIS project include: Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Works, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Planning Commission and Budget Office. The pilot phase later extended to additional 11 MDAs in 2009 to optimize the 55,000 licenses (OAGF, 2012).
By the end of 2014, the IPPIS had captured a total of 344 MDAs with a total of 224,440 civil servants. The IPPIS had saved the Federal Government of Nigeria a total sum of N161.953bilion between 2007 and 2013 (Mede, 2014). About 84MDAs were yet to be captured by IPPIS (Mede, 2014). Mede, (Director of IPPIS) revealed this at the Federal Universities Sensitization Workshop on incorporation of all MDAs into the IPPIS Platform at University of Lagos, Akoko, Lagos.
The IPPIS project was initiated by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to stem the tide of inflated public service nominal roll which led to increasing demand for budgetary allocation for personnel cost yearly. The IPPIS project actually commenced work with the pilot scheme implemented by a Nigerian IT company, SystemSpecs. The pilot scheme captured 55,000 workers in its database, when the pilot phase was concluded. This figure was later made to pass through the more credible exercise of the phase II service provider. The Nigerian IT company, Soft Alliance was chosen in December 2010, to handle phase II, and it captured 47,000 in 58 MDAs (The Nation Newspaper, 2012).
The IPPIS has a clearly defined mode of operational procedure for its implementation. Under the system, the comprehensive records module of IPPIS are the major ingredients supplied by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) and verified by the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), and augmented by other details that are captured directly from employees during staff enrollment. This information is used in the monthly payroll process that generates salaries which are examined by control agencies like Office of Auditor-General of the Federation (OAGF) and the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) before they are paid directly to the banks through Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS).
The main input into the personnel records are data extracted from confidential employee files that are kept by OHCSF and FCSC, simply because majority of civil servants have been recruited, promoted, and moved around the MDAs before the IPPIS project was commissioned.
These data are converted into a format acceptable by the IPPIS, verified and validated before they are upsized into the database.
The second input into the personnel records is the staff biometric data (fingerprints) and passport photographs that are captured during the enrolment process. Other data generated from personnel transactions like promotion, transfer, disciplinary actions and in-service training are added to make the database complete.
The IPPIS has a web camera that automatically captures the passport photograph of an employee that is being currently enrolled. Appointment details, like present work location (MDA), grade level and step, employment and resumption dates must be verified/validated and entered into the personnel database. Other details like salary, bank account number, and branch code must be duly captured so that the employee’s monthly emoluments can be automatically posted into the account.
Enrolment in this system implies the process of capturing biometric data (fingerprints), photograph of an eligible employee to complement the comprehensive bio-data, qualifications, work experience, appointment details supplied by FCSC for onward storage into the IPPIS database.
The following must be captured into the personnel database for completeness of IPPIS database:
- Comprehensive record on individual civil servant verified by OHCSF.
- Personnel transactions tracking
- In-service trainings
- Disciplinary actions
- Effects on employee’s qualifications.
After completeness in IPPIS database, the next paramount issue is payroll administration. The major processes in the monthly payroll cycle are:
- Variation captured at the MDAs
- Payroll run at the MDAs
- Payroll closure by MDAs
- Payroll audit
- Pay slip generation at MDAs
- Rollover to a new month.
- Payroll warrant generation by BOF
- Payroll mandate generation by OAGF.
- Send payroll warrants to CBN.
The IPPIS system became operational in many more Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) during its second phase (Okogu, 2010). Government at different levels battled the menace of ghost workers which had become a perennial problem, creating holes in public coffers. The implementation of IPPIS scheme by the Federal Government during the pilot stage helped it save N12billion, according to the then Finance Minister, (Segun Aganga, 2011).
Buttressing the fact further, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Okogu (2010) said, so far, the Federal Government had saved over N12billion with introduction of IPPIS. He maintained that the electronic capturing system was part of the present administration’s strategy to stop wastage, particularly through leakages in the system as a result of significant losses in salaries and pension payments to ghost workers and retired employees in the federal civil service. Aganga (2011) maintained that the IPPIS would boost its capacity for saving and enhance efficiency in the public funds management.
In apparent revelation, the new Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala (2012) maintained that N14.2billion was saved on personnel cost through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). She listed this savings as key achievement of the administration recorded at the end of the first quarter of 2012. She further concluded that as at April 2012, about 94,299 public workers were captured on IPPIS in 75 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
In the same vein, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Finance, John Owan – Enoh traced the challenges facing the country’s economy to ineffective payroll management system. He maintained that the effectiveness of the IPPIS would be measured by how much the government has been able to save through the AGF initiative.
The ghost workers were detected after a staff audit was carried out, and it showed that out of the 26,017 workers on the payroll of FCT, government was losing about $8million annually due to ghost workers on the FCT payroll, and specifically 6,000 were fictitious (Proshare, 2013). News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) gathered that since its first roll-out in October 2006, more than 100,000 public workers have been covered by IPPIS in 94 MDAs (NAN, 2012).
According to the then Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga, about 43,000 names on the payroll of some Federal parastatals were not of existing human beings, and this situation raised a sad point in the waste that have plagued the Nigerian system(The Nation, 2012). This is because the issue of ghost workers remained one of the potent ways designed by public officers to create holes in the coffers of the state. Successive governments in Nigeria have discovered ghost workers and expressed confidence in whatever step they had taken and believed that the matter had been nipped in the bud. Yet each new government discovers fresh cases. This is one of the reasons why critics say that the federal civil service is bloated, and it also explains why federal government’s recurrent expenditure is scandalously higher than its capital expenditure (Aganga, 2011). Aganga further maintained that through the phantom workers, the Federal government was losing N12 billion annually. The ghost workers formed part of the numerous employees on the nominal payroll of the Federal Government. Aganga (2011) who had earlier said this during the report presentation of the screening exercise to the Senate, maintained that the personnel cost of government had risen steadily every year from N850 billion to N1.3 trillion between 2009 and 2010, and this represented more than 50 percent of recurrent expenditure of government.
There are a number of central personnel agencies and technical support agencies that are linked with the operations of IPPIS for their oversight and control functions. According to Alaopa (2008), these support agencies include: Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation; Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; Office of Accountant-General of the Federation; the Budget Office of the Federation; Federal Civil Service Commission; and the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency.
In its contribution on the significance of IPPIS, Budget Office of the Federation (BOF, 2010) maintains that the electronic data capturing system is part of the administration’s strategy to stop wastage, particularly through leakages in the system as a result of significant losses in salaries and pension, and payments to ghost workers and retired employees in the federal civil service. He maintained that apart from helping government to update its data and records, for proper planning, the IPPIS project has been widely acknowledged as a positive step to stem corruption, reduce administrative hostage taking, associated with payment to individuals and contractors, as well as facilitate a more transparent payment system that allows for effective monitoring.
1.2: Statement of the Problem:
The Nigerian civil service from its inception was a model to emulate. According to Ogunrui and Erhijakpor (2009:106), misappropriation of public funds was difficult and very rare during that era, and that the service was very efficient, and greatly contributed to the formulation and implementation of public policies.
Over time, inefficiency and corruption became rife in the Nigerian civil service, and this malady had eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian public servants (El-Rufai, 2010). It was at this stage of rethink that many Nigerians started nursing the idea of reforms into the public service generally.
According to the World Bank (2002), there was a strong consensus in the international development community on the need for civil service reforms in developing nations. It was therefore a topical issue of the moment as developing nations all over the world engaged in the struggle to better their existence through the process of reforms for efficient and effective service delivery. In pursuance of the global reform agenda, Nigeria’s development objective is to be in the league of the 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020. The main philosophy underlying vision 20-20-20 therefore is the transcendence of the country from the category of a developing nation struggling to attain the millennium development goals (MDGs). This aspiration emerged at the twilight of the last millennium in 1999, when Nigeria embraced democracy after several years of military dictatorship (BPSR, 2009).
The Nigerian civil service witnessed several administrative and public service reform programmes dating as far back as pre-independence. The major reforms which this study focuses on came up as from 1999 and beyond with the heralding of the new civilian regimes of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan.
The Nigeria vision of the public service reforms of 1999 was to positively transform the civil service into an ideal, competent, professional, development-oriented, public-spirited, and customer-friendly, capable of responding effectively and exhibiting core values of political neutrality, impartiality, integrity, loyalty, transparency and accountability that was improved upon to the point of being competitively well remunerated and innovative, according to Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR, 2009).
Consequently, the reforms came in the major aspects of government administration which include: Restructuring of the civil service; Monetization policy; Civil service salary review; Overhaul of procurement system; Sustained crusade against corruption; Capacity building; ICT development; Review of the public service rules; Regulations and procedures; Rightsizing the civil service; Integrated payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS); and Due process. These major reforms were introduced and implemented since the inception of Obasanjo’s regime and Yar Adua’s administration, and were targeted at realizing the vision of the public service reform agenda aforementioned.
The IPPIS project as the core subject of this study started as a world Bank-assisted programme under the Economic Reforms and Governance Project (ERGP) and was instituted in 2006 to provide a reliable and comprehensive database for the public service to facilitate manpower planning; eliminate records and payroll fraud; facilitate easy storage, update and retrieval of personnel records for administrative and pension processes; and facilitate staff remuneration payment with minimal leakages and wastages. Going by the declaration of the immediate past Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, El-Rufai (2010), there were about 650,000 workers in the civil service as at that time.
Apparently, investigation revealed by the former Accountant-General of the Federation, Ibrahim Dankwambo through the pilot phase of IPPIS which revealed that although 7 MDAs were involved in the pilot phase, feedback was said to be mind-boggling. Furthermore, over 16MDAs that were captured in the second phase of IPPIS had more shocking revelations and reduction in wage bill (Dankwambo, 2011). It is therefore not surprising that this feedback informed the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan of strengthening the IPPIS to fish out ghost workers in the system.
According to Dankwambo (2011), it was unimaginable that the wage bill of the workforce of the Nigerian Federal civil service was about N1.5trillion. Afolabi accused the public officers on embarking on imaginary or fake recruitment of staff in order to jack up the payroll with the aim that the excess funds are diverted into private purse (Huge wage bill, 2011). Afolabi succinctly maintained that the benefit of weeding out ghost workers was that government could create new jobs and have a manageable workforce with reduced wage bill.
It is in view of the foregoing that the researcher sought to investigate the effect of IPPIS in the control of payroll fraud in Nigeria public sector.
Consequently the following research questions are posed to guide the study:
- How has the implementation of the IPPIS hindered payroll fraud in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service?
- What role did IPPIS play in storage and updating of personnel records required for payroll administration in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service?
- To what extent has the IPPIS been able to minimize leakages and wastages in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service; and
- What are the impediments to the effective implementation of IPPIS in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service?