Bello’s Determination to Sanitise Kogi Civil Service

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No doubt, one of the numerous problems confronting Kogi State today is the over-bloated civil service with its attendant huge monthly wage bill. The state contends with having to pay over 39,000 civil servants every month, despite the dwindling monthly federal allocation which is not enough to pay workers’ salaries in several states of the federation. Perhaps this accounted for the reason Governor Yahaya Bello vowed to reform the civil service in the state to change the orientation of the workers and improve their productivity for the benefit of all.
In his speech during his inauguration as the executive governor of Kogi State, Bello disclosed that there was no evil than corruption and nothing champions that evil more than impunity. He stressed that corruption and impunity made sure the people repeatedly arrived at a promised future and found it bereft of substance or the promised better future.
“Let it be on record today that the future generations will not be given reason to count the incoming administration among those reveled in corruption or impunity. We will be different by the grace of God. We must and will be that generation of leaders who made entirety of Kogi resources for the entirety of Kogi people.”
“Accordingly, I hereby declare and affirm that the Yahaya Bello Administration will have zero tolerance for corruption and impunity. I will lead Kogi State by honest example. So help me God,” Bello pledged. At the inauguration of Kogi State Civil Service staff audit committee, the governor pointed out that he would not be a salary paying governor without meaningful development in the state.
He charged the committee to do a thorough job to ascertain the real staff strength and flush out ghost workers who had been feeding fat on the state government. At the occasion too, the chairman of Kogi State Civil Service staff screening committee, Brigadier Paul Okutimo pledged to carry out the assignment diligently without fear or favour.
However, before the commencement of the Kogi civil service staff screening exercise, the state government had directed all the permanent secretaries and head of parastatal and government agencies to proceed on compulsory leave in order to ensure of the success of all important exercise aimed at reducing huge monthly wage bill.
Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has expressed optimism that the ongoing staff screening exercise will yield positive dividends for the state and the citizens at large when all the loopholes created by greedy individuals must have been exposed and taken care of.
According to him, “The issue of screening that is ongoing is very important, when we came on board, the wage bill was N3 billion and a staff strength of over 39000.
“When you move round the state where are the offices, where are the schools, where are the hospitals and we are aware that since 2011 there has not been any advertisement for recruitment of staff. So, how can we be having this heavy wage bill monthly?”
Governor Bello stated that what accrued to the state from the federation account monthly had drastically dwindled to between N2 billion to N2.2 billion, stressing that the Internally Generated Revenue was hovering around N400 million and N500 million monthly. He explained further that when all were put together they would not even be enough to pay salary, hence the state would have to rely on borrowing to service overhead, which is not sustainable hence the screening exercise become very imperative in this circumstances. The governor, however, expressed satisfaction with what has been uncovered so far from the screening exercise.
He lamented a situation, for example, where it was discovered that a staff is earning salary in four offices and another staff is taking the salaries of over 40 people. The governor said to ameliorate the hardship in the delay in salary payment he had given a directive for the heads of ministries, departments and agencies to work out the payroll for the genuine workers for payment of salaries pending the completion of the exercise. He pointed out that so far one senatorial district had been completed, expressing the hope to complete the exercise before the end of the month. On the local government and the inability of workers to get 100% salary he said it was not his making. He added that he granted them financial autonomy but with over-bloated staff the same problem that bedevilled the state was also affecting them. “I gave full autonomy to the local government on assumption of office so that they can have full autonomy financially but we will superintendent and oversight the generation of those funds and other activities. “Some of the local government’s salaries are over-bloated. If the wage bill is N120 million and N85 million accrues to the local government how would you be able to pay 100%? But reasonably they should be able to up the percentage of their pay, that is the reality and that is the reason for the screening,” he noted. Prior to this time, the rot in Kogi State civil services cannot be over exaggerated as some senior official in the ministries always flout the orders of the executives and add fictitious names to the list of staff and divert their salaries. Since 2003 there has been an astronomical increase in the number of civil servants in the state as successive administrations had turned civil service to political patronage where Tom, Dick and Harry are enlisted into the state workforce by whatever means. Although successive administrations in the state had had to curtail the influx of people into the civil service, the more they tried, the more the increase in the number of staff who came in through the back door. Several attempts were made under former governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, to know the exact number of state workforce with a view to reducing the huge monthly wage bill, the cartel within the system, however, frustrated the efforts of the government .
While the staff screening exercise was going on, they were busy issuing out free employment letters at various business centres in the state capital as cover up for ghost workers whose name were used to drain the state’s purse at the time.
Apparently disturbed by the increase in monthly wage bill from N1.6 billion to N3.2 billion in 2009, then former governor, Ibrahim Idris, again engaged the service of a consultant, the Sally Tibot Consulting firm to audit the state civil servants and come out with reasonable numbers and give recommendation on how to sustain sizeable workforce. With the commencement of the staff screening exercise, the government which paid a sum of N70 million to the consultant was however expecting a good result from the exercise, but the cartel within the system devised other means of frustrating the screening exercise. Civil servants with questionable credentials demonized the Chief Executive Officer of Sally Tibot Consulting firm, Ms. Saadat Otun Bakrin, and called her all sorts of names. At the end of the five months exercise, the consultant discovered a lot startling revelations and submitted the report and recommendations. The report was however left on the shelf to gather dust for what many believe, was political reason as the 2011 governorship contest was fast approaching then. Also between 2012 and 2016, the immediate past administration of Captain Idris Wada conducted several staff screening exercises to ascertain the number of state civil servants on the government payroll. The last staff screening exercise was carried out by the committee headed by a Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Deborah Ogunmola, which recommended that over 6,500 should be relieved of their work for not genuinely employed.
Alas, this did not see the light of the day because they wanted governor Wada to return for second term. Be that as it may, the present administration under the leadership of Alhaji Yahaya Bello has taken the bull by the horns and appears determined to get to the crux of the matter on how a number of Kogi State civil servants rose to 39,000 when the federal allocation has dropped to between N2.5 ant N2.2 billion monthly and wage bill is N3.2 billion.
Meanwhile mixed reactions have been trailing the Kogi civil service staff screening exercise, but majority of those who spoke with National Mirror are in support of the efforts and believe that if well done and recommendations that may emerge from it are carried out, the state and its people would be the better for it.
Credit: National Mirror
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