In Awka, Anambra State, an unexpected revelation about the local government system’s payroll has emerged. Vincent Ezeaka, Chairman of the Anambra State Local Government Service Commission (LGSC), addressed media and revealed major discrepancies discovered during a personnel audit.

Ezeaka stated that the audit discovered 59 deceased persons and 40 retirees, some of whom are still getting salary. Surprisingly, employees who have migrated overseas stay on the payroll. In addition to these findings, 427 “ghost workers” were discovered who lacked proper job status.

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Furthermore, the committee uncovered 44 people working with fraudulent educational qualifications, including OND, HND, BSc, NECO, and First School Leaving Certificates. In reaction to these revelations, numerous Deputy Directors and local government Treasurers were fired for obtaining false certifications.

In order to resolve these problems, the commission hired a retired permanent secretary to supervise a continuous verification procedure that aims to purify Anambra State’s local government structure. Ezeaka stressed that, in accordance with state law, these steps are meant to uphold integrity and guarantee that only authorized workers are paid.

The chairman said: “Before the commencement of the verification exercise, we wrote all the 21 local government areas, asking workers to voluntarily resign if they have issues with their certificates. We assured them that they would be granted amnesty, but that if we have to spend time and money to fish them out, we would dismiss them.

“Based on the letter, their union, NULGE begged that they would go round and convince workers to submit themselves provided they would be protected. After some time, on June 20, they brought 40 names of staff and their profiles and pleaded that those staff be demoted, instead of outright sack. We wrote the governor to grant them disciplinary procedure amnesty.

“Some of them suddenly applied for voluntary retirement, but we refused because you cannot cheat government and want to retire formally.

“Out of 320 that were verified, only 110 since February this year, have been able to come out to prove themselves as workers and we have restored their pay and till today, 220 have not shown up.

“Apart from this discovery, at the end of May 2024, something dramatic happened. We descended on the certificate racketeering cartel within the local government system.

“We set up a committee which came up with report of people with suspicious certificates working in various local government areas of Anambra State and we then set up a screening committee that indicted so many of them.

“Those indicted were identified and we started investigating the certificates they presented to the committee and went as far as going to the universities whose certificates they brandished. Out of the 20 persons who tendered Imo State University certificates, we have screened 14 so far and discovered that six out of the 14 were fake certificates.

“It is our duty to sanitize the system in line with the mandate given to us by Governor Chukwuma Soludo so that the genuine workers who sacrifice their time and energy could get value for their service and not looters who do not contribute anything to the development of Anambra state.

“We are going to finish our investigation and those we caught in this unholy act will face the full wrath of the law in accordance with the civil service rules.

“The ongoing staff and certificate verification committees are not for any witch-hunt, but purely to sanitize the system”.

Ezeaka said those working with forged certificates have been given a grace period to come and voluntarily report themselves or be sacked when the amnesty would elapse.

Ezeaka further said: ‘The intention was not to reduce the wage bill, or victimize anyone, but for them to show that they are genuine workers and to go to work and do the work they are paid for.

 

“We were worried that the wage bill was still high, compared to the number of people that were coming to work, so we did a physical audit of workers, and I decided to do it myself.

“The heads of personnel management in all the local government brought in their workers list and we also collected their schedule of duty, and went to JAAC and got salary printout.

“Some people are saying that I’m doing this so as to curry favour from Governor Soludo, but I can only say yes because the essence of my being appointed, is for the governor to be happy with my performance.

“The governor gave us a mandate to clear the local government system of ghost workers, so we brought biometric attendance register and we used it for five months, then we made a printout of the first three months, and we got a print out with names of 320 workers in all the 21 local government who never attended work, even one day in three months. They have zero attendance and never clocked in or out in the system.

“We brought out their names and wrote to JAAC to put them off salary. In the civil service rule, you don’t even need one month to get dismissed, but we didn’t dismiss them; rather we put them off the payroll. Some reacted and said the machine was not working perfectly, so we gave them another chance.”