TIJJANI MOHAMMAD, FEDERAL MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, ABUJA
A core mandate of the Civil Service Commission, as an agency of Government, is the recruitment and deployment of officers with requisite qualifications into the civil service.
A major plank on which the commission seeks to realize its vision of building a core of highly focused, disciplined, committed and patriotic civil service is the advertisement of vacancies for the ultimate and equitable recruitment of the best applicants into the service.
This process ensures that recruitment is advertised for equity, competitiveness and that only the best are recruited and deployed accordingly, based on vacancies and needs of MDAs.
However, a counter-productive malady, not consistent with the Commission’s vision, seems to have recently crept into the commission as the nation is witnessing cases of illegal recruitment or employment into the service.
Illegal Recruitment or Employment, broadly speaking, refers to the illegal, unauthorized, and clandestine procurement of fake employment letters, purporting to have emanated from the Commission, to applicants, and subsequent deployments to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, by persons not unauthorized to do so.
It is to be clearly noted that illegal recruitment is different from the criminal sale of advertised vacancies or the ghost worker syndrome.
Whereas the ghost worker syndrome is the insertion of fake names into government payroll by unscrupulous personnel, mostly on the basis of financial gains, illegal recruitment implies the illegal offering of employment letters purported to come from legitimate authorities (thus, conferring employment to one) by people not so authorized.
The criminal sale of genuine and possibly advertised vacancies, by those entrusted with one level of employment or the other, is loosely termed job racketeering.
Regrettably, this debilitating syndrome has so permeated the Ministries, Departments and Agencies that virtually no ministry seems to be insulated from this ugly trend. Indeed, it has become a national challenge.
It is therefore not surprising that speaking with journalists in July, ahead of the 2023 Civil Service Week, the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, announced that the Federal government had discovered 1,618 civil servants with fake employment letters.
The Head of Service announced that these civil servants with fake employment letters were detected after the introduction of control mechanisms to address loopholes identified in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Acknowledging this menace, the Head of Service declared that ‘prior to the introduction of the current mechanisms put in place to drive the implementation of the IPPIS, the system was bedeviled with considerable leakages and wastes as well as the incessant infiltration of ghost workers.’
Unfortunately, whereas the introduction of the IPPIS was meant to curtail and ultimately, eliminate illegalities in the civil / public service, in terms of human resource and payroll, human factor in its application seem to be jeopardizing this noble objective of government.
It is painful that employees of government are capitalizing on insider abuse to undermine the efficiency of the IPPIS and to perpetrate unwholesome activities, resulting in cases of ‘salary paddings’, ghost names in government payrolls, among others that are currently being investigated by government agencies.
Ironically, the issue is not new. For example, as at December 2021, a particular Ministry of the Federal Government alone weeded out a total of 1,020 of such illegally employed staff with over 300 employment letters further sent to be authenticated by the Federal Civil Service Commission. No doubt, many of the later would have turned out to also have been illegally procured!
Usually perpetrated by a syndicate, at a price, the dangers of illegal employment and its cost to the nation can hardly be quantified:
First, while the syndicate may not necessarily exist within the commission, the institutional credibility of the Commission is at stake with its attendant backlash on the quality of the Civil Service.
Also, the quality and capacity of those illegally recruited into the Service cannot be guaranteed with its negative impact on the service since there were no clear cut criteria or standard for such illegal employment.
These recruitments, sometimes, with backdated employment dates, not only bloat the personnel payroll and cost of MDAs, create redundancy and malingering in the service but have become a catalyst for inefficiency, indolence and indiscipline in the service as well as a threat to service delivery.
More worrisome is that sometimes, the syndicate ensures that personnel data of such illegal recruits are promptly captured in the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) thereby compromising the Information System and creating a deep drainpipe in the nation’s treasury.
It is on this basis that the Head of Service was reported to have lamented that IPPIS Desk Officers were central to this menace as activities in IPPIS have not been exonerated in this national malaise.
At the moment, a House of Representative Adhoc Committee is investigating alleged employment racketeering and other malpractices in MDAs. Issues relating to IPPIS and its operators have featured prominently in the investigation, to the extent that officers named have been summoned to appear before the committee.
No doubt, the House of Representative’s effort is one, among so many others, meant to address the problem.
The report that a total of 3,657 civil servants have been taken by the Federal Government before the Independent and Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC) for prosecution for failing to get verified on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), is heartwarming.
However, it must be stated that towards halting this national malaise, the Civil Service Commission must, as a matter of utmost importance, ensure that this syndicate is dismantled, all money so illegally received by such personnel recovered, while culprits and their accomplices in this national shame are prosecuted.
It is strongly argued that mere removal of such names from payroll without prosecution will not deter those corruptly feasting from this exercise at the expense of a virile civil service backed up by a sound and fool – proof IPPIS.
Noteworthy is that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had at the 2021 Public Service Integrity Award brought this to the attention of then President Muhammadu Buhari who vowed to punish such erring and corrupt officials. That commitment by the President didn’t seem to have deterred the perpetrators.
Similarly, then Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige stated that he had raised alarm to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the employment racket in his Ministry, leading to the invitation of the ICPC for further investigation.
Therefore, since this anomaly can be rightly said to be known to the State at the highest level, nothing should hinder its frontal attack and ultimate elimination before it weakens the cohesion of the civil service with its attendant damage to governance and service delivery.
Therefore, the Commission must synergize more with ICPC, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and other relevant agencies to halt this trend, recover all illegal remunerations and payments already received by such illegal employees, expose all members of the syndicate, their accomplices and collaborators for prosecution under relevant laws.
Until this these steps are taken, it does not seem that the illegal recruitment syndrome in the civil service will come to an end.