Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State Government has accused some financial institutions operating in the state of colluding with unscrupulous civil servants to defraud the state government by promoting the ghost worker syndome and other unethical practices.
The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson stated this during a townhall meeting at the Unity Secretariat, Nembe in Nembe Local Government Area of the state.
Mr Iworiso-Markson, who lamented that the present administration inherited a huge gratuity obligation running into billions of Naira, condemned the ugly practice, which he noted, robbed the state government of huge amounts of money over the years.
While reassuring pensioners of government’s commitment to their welfare, he said the present administration is addressing the unwholesome act through the ongoing reforms.
Meanwhile stakeholders of Nembe Local Government Area have urged the Governor Seriake Dickson-led Restoration Government to revert to the former system of supervisory payment of salaries to curb fraud in the state public service.
This was the consensus of opinion during an interactive meeting where notable personalities from the area gave thumb up to the governor for summoning courage to embark on the public sector reforms.
Some of the stakeholders who endorsed the reforms were Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, Chief George Fente, Caretaker Committee Chairman of Nembe Local Government Council, Chief Beifie Fibereseimo, lawmakers and political appointees from the area including the Commissioner for Education, Hon. Jonathan Obuebite.
They identified the current bank alert system of salary payment as a major cause of absenteeism, multiple employment, ghost worker syndrome and other anomalies bedevilling the state public service.
While acknowledging the successes recorded so far especially in the area of reduction of wagebills both at state and local government levels, Senator Amange encouraged Governor Dickson to downsize the state workforce from its current 34,000 to10,000.
In her submission, Mrs. Dauerigha Opuene, a retired School Principal, expressed great joy over the reforms but appealed to the present administration to look inwards as most of the fraudulent acts are perpetrated through a well orchestrated collusion between few public servants and top government officials.
Earlier in his address, the Caretaker Committee Chairman, Chief Beifie Fibereseimo enumerated the benefits of the reforms to include a monthly saving of N25million.
According to the Chairman, the wage bill covering both council and primary school staff as at October last year stood at N127million but has been reduced to N102million.
Responding to issues raised by the local chapters of NULGE, MHWUN and Nigeria Union of Teachers, the Commissioner for Education, Hon. Jonathan Obuebite noted that Bayelsa ranks among the few states with large workforce in the education sector.
Hon. Obuebite who put primary school staff at 9,315 with a monthly wagebill of N581million, said the state government was paying N611million to 6, 078 secondary school workers.
The Commissioner who decried the high rate of absenteeism in schools, pointed out that about 60% of workers in both primary and secondary schools are non academic staff.