Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma has directed that all state pensioners be immediately paid their March pension allowances while warning that his administration will not condone ghost workers as had been the practice in previous administrations.
The governor’s directive came on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with the leadership of the pensioners association in the state.
According to Governor Uzodinma who disclosed this through a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, he explained that the governor made it clear to the pensioners that the delay in the payment of March allowances was caused by the government’s determination to flush out fraud from the system.
Emelumba said the government had saved over N300m in pension payments through detailed scrutiny of the payroll which exposed a lot of leakages and ghost recipients in the system.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the state association of pensioners, Dr Josiah Ugochukwu, earlier had alleged that the use of consultants to handle the pension matters by the Emeka Ihedioha-led administration was a perfected plan to defraud the pensioners.
Emelumba while corroborating the pensioners’ claim said “the government discovered that the use of a consultant was a ploy to defraud the state by opening avenues for questionable payments of over half a billion naira to an external consultant who by law cannot be audited by the state Auditor General.
“There was practically no role for a consultant in payment of pensions. The governor sees pension money as blood money because it is money saved from the sweat of elder statesmen who sacrificed their youth to serve the state.”
On the delay in the payment of March salaries to local government workers, the commissioner explained that it was caused by an unusual bloating of the payroll.
He explained that when the government took office in January, the local government allocation was N3.8 billion from which N1.6 billion was left after payment of salaries and pensions.
He added: “Surprisingly in February with the same allocation only N900 million was left after payment of salaries and pensions. How can this be explained when no new staff has been employed by the local governments.”
On the discrepancies in the wage bill of local government areas of the state, the commissioner said: “It is curious that some local governments with less staff were carrying a wage bill higher than those with more staff; how can Owerri Municipal with highest number of workers be paying N15m as salaries while Ihitte Uboma with less staff is paying N56 million?” Emelumba asked.