Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Professor Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN) Tuesday said indiscriminate recruitments into the Federal Civil Service by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is responsible for high personnel cost in the nation’s budget.
The situation, he said, was made worse with the associated problem of fake certificates in the civil service. “Indiscriminate recruitment has impacted the personnel budget such that the personnel wage bill has continued to rise geometrically almost doubling between 2015 and 2022 from N1.832trn in 2015 to N3.494trn in 2022,” he said. Professor Owasanoye stated this in Abuja at the National Policy Dialogue, organised by ICPC through its Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN).
According to him, the ICPC had received and was investigating almost 100 petitions on recruitment scam from victims’ institutions and complicit individuals, adding that the situation continues to fester due to lack of transparency in recruitment process. He said there is a lack of transparency in the public service recruitment process across all tiers of government in the country irrespective of political party in power.
The ICPC boss said the policy dialogue was meant to deliberate on issues that focused on more systemic and institutional improvements, which also should be sustainable regardless of changes in political administrations. “The timing of this Policy Dialogue on Entrenching Transparency in Public Service Recruitment Process in Nigeria could not have come at a better time than now. This is because there is near consensus across our country and across all political divides that there is a lack of transparency in the public service recruitment process across all tiers of government in our country. This is regardless of which political party holds the reign of power in these three tiers of government.
“Lack of transparency in the recruitment process has been subject of discussions not only in the various mass media organs but also very vociferously in the legislative arms of government across levels. Some members of the executive arm of government have equally voiced their concerns on the matter.
“In actual fact, many Nigerians in both official and non-official quarters have expressed serious concerns over the growing patronage system in the public sector. For example, the Executive Governor of Borno state His Excellency Professor Babagana Zulum raised a serious concern that these days the recruitment into the Security Agencies (Nigerian Army, Police and others) has been politicized.
“And according to him, the governors, ministers and other top government functionaries have recruitment slots who are not interviewed whether they are qualified or not. It does appear to us that the meritocratic tradition in the public service which existed to some degree up to the 80s in our country is gradually disappearing with very few islands of recruitment integrity only remaining.”
HoS also laments
In her remarks, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoS) Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, also lamented the lack of transparency in recruitment into the nation’s civil service. She, however, said the current administration, through the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, had taken decisive steps to nip in the bud the alarming sharp practices and acts of impunity being perpetrated on the IPPIS, as well as to purge the system of all infiltrations.
“It is disheartening to point out that the office recently received a report from the Federal Civil Service Commission forwarding the names of over 500 persons in various MDAs in possession of fake letters of appointment and which are to be delisted from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS) Platform.
“Similarly, following the outcome of the Service-Wide Verification Exercise for officers recruited from 2013 – 2020, the Federal Civil Service Commission has also requested the suspension of the salaries of over 3,000 officers across the MDAs who failed to appear for the exercise pending further clearance…
“It would be recalled that in March last year, the Office informed of the detection of fake letters of employment presented in some Ministries. For instance, in the past year, in one Ministry alone, over 1,000 individuals bearing fake letters of appointment were detected.”
Lamenting how endemic corruption into public service had become, she quoted a survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that said 32 percent of Nigerians gave bribes to enable them secure employment into the public service.
“A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, averred that 32 percent of Nigerians gave bribes to enable them secure employment into the public service in 2019. What is also important to note from the report, which perhaps is fundamental to understanding how corruption thrives in recruitment processes is that an increasing number of the job seekers were in contact with public officials or possibly other entities. Hence, the trend underscores the importance of putting in place systems to reduce, to the possible minimum, any form of human contact.”
Explaining in practical terms, efforts of the present administration to stop the menace, she said: “You may be aware that at inception, the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) focused mainly on Payroll in view of Government’s desire to block financial leakages from high personnel cost caused by ghost workers.
“This, however, created a gap leading to series of implementation issues. As at March 2022, over 390,000 officers are on the IPPIS payroll being 66,000 and 320,000 for core and non-core MDAs respectively. This figure is without prejudice to the military, paramilitary and universities.
“Accordingly, the office commenced activities towards the implementation of the Human Resource (HR) Module of IPPIS with a view to bridging some of the identified gaps. Following the successful completion of the verification exercise in the core MDAs, officers who failed to get verified have had their salaries suspended. However, the office is carrying out a mop-up exercise in the core-MDAs for those who were not verified.
“As part of our control mechanisms, we are presently conducting I.P.P.I.S Human Resource (HR) Verification Exercise for the Employees of Non-Core Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS) in batches, starting with Abuja after extending our earlier deadline for the closure of the IPPIS HR Verification Portal. The entire exercise which will also cover MDAs in all the Geo-political zones of the country is expected to end with a Mop-up Verification Exercise across the non-core MDAs in September, this year (2022). Thus, this would enable the office derive a verified list of officers on IPPIS.”
In his speech, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, said heads of MDAs are most times under pressure from ‘above’ when it comes to employment into the public service even when the applicants are not qualified for the job. Narrating a personal experience during the recent recruitment into the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the minister said: “For the NSCDC, about 1.5 million applications were registered on the website. Those who met the requirements on age and height were about 750,000 and were asked to upload their certificates.
“A total of 217,000 applicants uploaded their certificates of which 113,000 were shortlisted to write the CBT but only 53,116 eventually sat for the test. It is from these that 5,000 were picked among the successful ones.
“It is a long and tortuous process. It is also a novelty. So we expect a lot of pressure. Some of the pressures are understandable. A woman came with her son after getting very high up people to influence his appointment. But we discovered that the son was far, far below the required height of 1.7 metres. Some applicants on wheelchairs also came, demanding for the statutory five per cent allocation for special people. We politely explained to them that the job is paramilitary, requiring strenuous physical exercise for which they are not eligible, given their physical condition.”
Speaking further, Aregbesola called for transparency and digitisation of recruitment process in order to eliminate secret recruitment, adding people would begin to see that the process is honest and transparent while the pressures abate. He said: “In recruiting into the paramilitary agencies of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the board decided to advertise in the media to bring the information to the awareness of as many people as possible. This rules out secret recruitment.
“We also put away the manual mode of conducting tests to computer based tests that can be done in any location, eliminating the need to have a mass crowd together in one place. We hired a reputable examination body, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for the aptitude test. “In addition, we included the National Identity Number (NIN) to authenticate the identities and bio data of applicants and eliminate fraud and possible impersonation.
“We also engaged the Federal Character Commission at all stages of the recruitment exercise. All these were done through a dedicated website. But I must say that Nigerians are reasonable people. Once they see the honest and transparency of our efforts, the pressures begins to abate.
“We have hope now that the transparency of the exercise will infuse credibility into recruitment and encourage those eminently qualified but cynical that because they don’t have anyone high up to push their case, will now start to have faith and show interest in future exercise.”