The Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Kemela Okara, on Monday debunked speculations that the ongoing public sector reforms in the state is meant to witch-hunt its indigenes, stressing that the desire of the state government is to deliver to Bayelsans both now and the future, a public sector that serves all the interest of its citizens to the best of its ability.
Okara who disclosed this in a chat with journalists in Lagos yesterday, said the state government had embarked on some of the most ambitious policy initiatives to bring about long term transformation of the state.
According to him, â€œOne area that we have probably not talked about much is the public service reform. When the governor came in 2012, one of the things that was very dear to him was that for us to deliver to Bayelsans, the state they deserve, we needed to look critically at the engine of implementation of public policy, which the public sector, including the civil service, parastatals, government agencies, public institutions and the like. This is the one policy where the governor has consistently been addressing from 2012 until now.
â€œAs secretary to government, it has been a privilege to be the deputy chairman of the public sector reform committee, which the governor set up looking at everything in the public sector. We looked at the civil service, how efficient it is, how we can better resource the civil service, how we can better resource it and deal with what we met like over bloated workforce, ghost workers unsustainable monthly wage bills and ensuring that people who are employed in various places met laid down criteria.
â€œIt has become imperative that we begin to put this message out there that in addition to what government has been doing quite laudably in security, education, healthcare, we are also doing a lot of work in the area of public sector reform.â€
This area, he stated, is much more sensitive as sometimes it gets a push back because of entrenched interest who doesnâ€™t want things to change.
â€œBut never the less we feel it is important to put things in proper context in the interest of all Bayelsans. The reason the governor has put up the public sector reform is not out of the desire to witch-hunt anybody or make somebody lose their job. It is because at the end of the day, all Bayelsans are key stakeholders in the project of governance and they deserve a public sector that delivers,â€ he said.
He disclosed that when the government came on board in 2012, the monthly wage bill was N6.7 billion, adding that it has pruned it down to N2.9 billion.
â€œClearly if you consider the size of the state and if you look at other states with higher population, our wage bill was way above what was really acceptable. So we began to look at having our wage bill arrive at a sustainable figure and we had to look at this from many angles.
Today, we have pruned that wage bill down to N2.9 billion, if you add what we give as subventions to tertiary institutions, which is another N630 million, it brings it to about N3.6 billion. We are still trying to get the citizens of the state, public sector worker, trade unions to understand that we must manage a public sector that is sustainable in the long term so that the state can develop in all frontiers; that state income is not just for paying of salaries of public sector workers,â€ he said.