Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has restated his determination to flush out the culprits of payroll fraud, truancy, multiple employment and related vices from the state’s civil service.
Governor Dickson had taken the first practical step to confront the payroll debacle in Bayelsa State, in December 2017, when he directed that the salaries of 4,204 suspects from the eight local government areas of the state be withheld.
Findings indicated that while 1, 329 of the affected workers came from the local government areas; 2184 are from the Primary School Education system and 707 from the Pension payroll.
The state government’s Committee on Civil Service Reforms investigating the payroll uncovered 500 Administrative officers in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state and a total of 5000 non academic staff at the Niger Delta University and the other state-owned five tertiary institutions in the state.
According to investigations, Governor Dickson had rebuffed mounting pressures and threat messages to senior government officials and has decided to go ahead noting that such a firm decision was necessary to free the civil service of unscrupulous characters and create employment opportunities for the teeming youth populace in the state.
A statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, made available to journalists over the weekend quoted Governor Dickson as having insisted that the state government would not tolerate those milking its resources without rendering services.
While lamenting that the criminal conduct of a few criminal-minded individuals had been depriving the state of over N12 billion annually he recalled that, the government had been battling the issue of over bloated wage bill since the advent of the Restoration Government in 2012.
According to him, the government deployed biometric data capture and other measures to fight the endemic payroll fraud in the state and had been able to bring down the wage bill from N6.7 billion to N3.9 bn.
He said, “Even up to this moment with several committees set up by His Excellency to look into the various sectors such as the tertiary institutions, the core civil service, parastatals, local government councils and rural development authorities, the state’s wage bill is still considered to be on the high side especially when viewed against the backdrop of the monumental fraud in the system.”
Iworiso-Markson explained that the government would not sustain the current abhorrent arrangement where over 500 drivers were engaged and paid salaries by the Ministry of Transport without the vehicles to do their work.
The Government’s spokesman also listed some of the fraud in the public service to include securing employment with forged certificates, collection of salaries from multiple agencies of government, indefensible promotions in contradiction to civil service rules; pension fraudsters, age falsifiers among others.
The commissioner cited the example of the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU) as a classic case where the number of non-academic staff was far higher than their academic counterparts.
He explained that the university’s monthly wage bill of N500 million was that high because of the fraudulent inclusion of non academic staff residing outside the state in the payroll.
The government spokesman also noted that the committee saddled with the responsibility of ensuring comprehensive reforms in all the tertiary institutions in the state held series of meetings with the various boards and governing councils of the institutions and agreed on the number of workforce that each tertiary institution should have.
“Arising from that understanding, government acting on the recommendation of the committee came out with a clear policy of placing the various tertiary institutions on subvention as is the norm everywhere especially as it relates to government funding of tertiary institutions. The government spends a total of N630 million as subventions on various tertiary institution in the state the breakdown of which includes NDU: N350 million; Isaac Jasper Boro College of Education: N100 million; College of Health Technology Otougidi: N40 million; The Polytechnic Aleibiri N50 million; University of Africa N75m and International Tourism Institute N15 million” he said.
He further said that the tertiary institutions were all charged to raise revenue internally to fund their activities as they were self-accounting.
Iworiso-Markson stressed that the reforms were designed to prune down the State’s over-bloated wage bill which he put at about six billion cumulatively with the inclusion of the salaries of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government (MDAs), Local government workers and political appointees.