By Hammed Shittu
The Kwara State government has said its recent directive to all workers in the state public service to open new salary accounts with commercial banks of their choice was neither punitive nor designed to cripple micro finance banks in the state.
Rather, the government said the move, among others, was to fight the menace of ghost workers which it stated continues to gulp millions of public funds at the expense of development.
The National Association of Microfinance Banks (NAMB) in the state, recently appealed to the state Governor, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, to rescind his administration’s decision on the policy.
issue. It also cried out that some of the 13,438 civil servants and pensioners banking with 15 microfinance banks across the state were indebted to the banks to the tune of one billion naira.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor, Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye, at a media briefing in Ilorin, recalled that the federal government had also taken similar steps to clean up its payroll and restore sanity in the system.
According to him, “We want to clarify that the decision of the government is not a punitive measure targeted at anyone. We also want to clarify that this initiative was long conceived before this administration.
“Perhaps the difference here is that this administration is mustering the courage to do what is right in full appreciation of the mandate of the people of Kwara State and save scarce public resources.”
Ajakaye added, “The government has actionable intelligence from various security agencies that the much-talked about ghost worker syndrome is deeply enabled through transactions involving some of these institutions with the collusion of some unscrupulous government functionaries.
“This is a cancer that continues to eat into public resources at the expense of development. The government has a duty to end the circus.”
Ajakaye said the decision formed a part of efforts to clean the government’s pay roll — a move he added had been further necessitated by the pressure to meet workers’ demand for minimum wage and other obligations.
He stressed, “To clean the payroll, the administration has adopted some measures which include making sure that salaries are paid only through commercial banks for easy monitoring; physical head count of workers through cash payment; electronic clock-in; and biometric verification. The decision to use only commercial banks to pay salary is the first leg of these multi-pronged approaches”.
He also noted that, “We wish to clarify that this policy does not seek to kill our micro finance banks or local businesses. Workers or pensioners who wish to keep their accounts with these banks reserve the right to keep an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) with their commercial banks to transfer their salaries to their respective micro finance banks once the government first pays into them (commercial banks).
“The policy also does not hurt people in the villages where the commercial banks have no branches. Such workers can place an ISPO with their commercial banks to forward their salaries to their MFBs accounts.
“The MFBs have complained that some of these workers are indebted to them and that taking their salaries away could leave them in debt. The government has allayed this fear. The government is willing to ensure that affected workers agree an ISPO between the banks until such debts have been fully paid.
“The MFBs should report any erring civil servant to the office of the HOS for appropriate sanctions. The government will set up an ombudsman office to look into such matters to prevent anyone from defrauding the MFBs.