Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has again given detailed account of how his state managed the bailout and Paris club refunds for payment of backlog of salaries he inherited and also in improving the infrastructure of the state.
Speaking at the Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum media conference for Chief Press Secretaries and Commissioners for Information from the 36 states in Abuja, Ikpeazu who was represented by his deputy, also said the state enshrined transparency in governanceand ensure that every Abian is updated with quarterly information on the affairs of the state.
Speaking on the topic: â€˜Application of the Paris Club Refund to State,â€™ the governor said: â€œThe receipt of the intervention funds has become a source of concern to some analyst, pundits, social critics and political commentators. Some comments have been made in the print and social media which were half truths and sometimes outright lies.
â€œMay I use this opportunity to briefly state the facts. Interestingly, Abia State government received the following intervention funds from federal government: Bailout fund of N14.2billion, first tranche of Paris refund of N10.6billion and the second tranche of the Paris refund of N5.7billion.
â€œIn line with the transparency approach to governance of the current administration, after the receipt of the first intervention (bailout) fund, the Abia State government constituted a committee made up of the different labour Union leaders; namely NLC, TUC, NULGE, NUP, NUT and Joint Negotiating Council. The committee took charge of the disbursement of the funds to various areas of greater needs and exigencies.
â€œIndeed, the exercise was conducted devoid of government intervention as 100 per cent of funds received were expended in the services of workersâ€™ payments. This exercise was (by all known standards) transparent and applauded by ICPC, who singled out Abia and two other states for their transparency in the disbursement and utilisation of the fund.
â€œ50 per cent of the first tranche of the Paris Refund was dedicated to the payment of workersâ€™salaries and wages. We also disbursed an additional N600m to augment the payment of workersâ€™ salaries and wages. Thus, a total of N5.9billion was spent therein.
â€œThe second tranche of the Paris refund received was 100% spent on workersâ€™ salaries and pensions. This has greatly curtailed the salary arrears and responsibilities of the government.
â€œOverall, Abia received a total sum of N16.3billion from the Paris Club refund and deployed N11.6billion to service workers/pensioners wage bill. This translates to a commitment of more than 71per cent of total receipt to service workersâ€™ salaries and pension,â€ the governor said.
Expounding further on the challenges, Ikpeazu said: â€œThe challenge has remained that while trying to clear the backlog of salaries, they keep piling as most of us can testify. This is as a result of the fact that allocations from the center and the IGR have not been enough to carry the monthly wage bill and other responsibilities. â€œ
The governor also spoke on the efforts made by his administration to ensure that workers get salaries as at when due, by introducing the verification and biometric exercise to curb ghost workers.
â€œWith the introduction of the verification and biometric exercises some issues such as â€˜ghost workerâ€™ salaries, padding of salaries, multiplicity of people receiving salaries from various units of the government has been addressed.
â€œThis has assisted the state greatly, as the monthly wage bill has been reduced from an average of N2.8billion to N2.1billion. Thus from this alone a savings of about N600million monthly has been achieved. When extrapolated in 34 months, this amounts to about N16billion that would have ordinarily gone into some individualsâ€™ accounts.
On the issue of pensions he said: â€œHitherto there were 19 sub-treasuries through which Pensioners were paid. These sub-treasuries determined when and how to pay the pensioners. This brought about sharp practices in the system. The government therefore decided to abolish the sub-treasuries system.
â€œTo address this issue, the state embarked on Pen sioners Verification Exercise (PVE). This has helped to identify non-retirees in the system. Thereafter, the e-payment system was adopted. This led to the simultaneous payment of all pensioners through their banks. Today, pensioners receive their pay at the comfort of their respective homes.
â€œThrough the verifications, about 131 teachers who were supposed to have retired were identified. From the original date of their retirement till the date of the discovery, the government had paid them a total sum of N496m. The government is determined to convert the monies paid them as either pension or gratuity due them in future.â€
Speaking with journalists, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Enyinnaya Appolos said: â€œThe state government has brought about transparency and decency in the system. We have built more confidence on the relationship between the labour unions and the government. This can be attested to by the trade unions leaders and their members in the state.