By Dayo Johnson
Speculations are rife that the N14.6billion bailout received by the Ondo state government has been fixed in a bank hence the delay by the government in paying it’s workers outstanding salaries. The allegation was reinforced when the state Chairman of the Joint Negotiation Council, JNC, Comrade Sunday Adeleye came out openly to accuse the government of fixing the bail out fund.
The opposition party, APC, equally said the verification exercise embarked upon by government was belated and a decoy to delay the payment of the outstanding salary arrears of worker,
It alleged that this further confirmed the speculations that the fund had been fixed by the state government. Adeleye while calling the workers to commence a two day warning strike in Akure last week said; “Workers are aware that the government had placed the bail out fund received from the Federal Government in a fixed deposit account to yield interest.”
Adeleye alleged that the government only tried to divide the workers by paying net salary for the month of July to core civil servants and secondary school teachers. According to him, government has not paid anything to workers in the local government as well as primary school teachers and other categories of workers.
Government he noted had breached the agreement it reached with labour leaders at the meeting where it was agreed that gross salaries of July and August and deductions for the month and June would be paid. The JNC chairman said the government apart from not paying local government workers and primary school teachers is also withholding deductions for the month of July.
He said the action of the government was contrary to what was being aired on the State Radio-vision Corporation that government had commenced payment of salaries for July and August to all workers. However, the governor, Olusegun Mimiko at a meeting with state civil servants from grade level 13 and above including Permanent Secretaries and Accounting Officers debunked the allegation that the N14.6billion bail-out fund was lodged in a fixed account.
According to him, the money was intact and not in any fixed account as is being alleged. Mimiko said; “The bail-out money could not have been put in a fixed account because it is a loan that will be deducted from the State’s allocation and it will be unreasonable to fix such money. He added that any bank caught in such act will receive sanctions from the CBN.
The governor explained that the State Executive Council gave approval for the payment of July and August salaries before the payment preparation was disrupted and strike action called by the worker’s union leaders. While advising public servants to always verify the truth and maintain a minimum level of responsibility before decision taking, Dr Mimiko assured that his administration would always promote the welfare of the workers.
The governor said that from February this year, his administration has been taking overdraft from banks to to be able to pay workers salaries and pensions as the monthly allocation was not enough to settle the wages. According to him, the wage bill at the state level remains N3.95billion, just as the allocation keep dropping on a monthly basis.
He said for the month of January, the state received N4.44billion, February N3.45billion, March N 3.80billion, April N2.7billion, May N2.6billion, June N2.9billion, July N3.95billion plus NLNG N2.26billion, August N3.65billion and September N3.02billion. The workers while suspending their warning strike due to the intervention of its National Secretariat asked government to pay all outstanding salaries till September by last Wednesday or the workers would proceed on another strike.
Meanwhile, government has at Friday last week started paying the workers salaries for August. The JNC chairman had accused the state government of removing over 500 workers from the government payroll after the verification exercise. But government insists that the workers drawn from the state Teaching Service Commission, State Universal Education Board and the various ministries were employed illegally and would no longer be accommodated on its payroll.
Government described them as ghost workers but the leadership of the workers ask government to prosecute any offender by allowing due process to take place instead of unilaterally removing the names of workers from the payment vouchers. Adeleye said, the said workers should be given fair hearing before they are crucified by government.
Speaking with Vanguard, the Finance Commissioner, Yele Ogundipe, said the verification committee which is comprised of state labour leaders, Commissioners and other stakeholders in the state discovered various frauds during the verification exercise. Ogundipe said N13million was saved by government in a month after the verification.
Information Commissioner Kayode Akinmade while speaking on the verification said the exercise paid off, as some people who have been defrauding the government were detected with some arrests effected.
Akinmade mentioned that at the Ministry of Agriculture screening point, a woman was arrested for impersonation. She was reported to have claimed to be representing her sister who has relocated abroad during the screening. Another person he also mentioned, was arrested for the same offence at Ile- Oluji, in Oke -Igbo local government, while some others were identified for collecting salaries higher than their level.
Akinmade said; “It was also discovered that some people did not show up for the exercise at some screening centres despite the publicity given to it while names of some people who have since died and retired are still on the pay roll as detected in some areas.” “In the bid to ensure that workers in the state are paid despite the present economic challenges, the government joined other states to obtain a bailout loan to the tune of N14.6b for both state and local government council, which will be enough to cover outstanding salaries up to August.
“So far, the outstanding deductions for payment of Union dues, Cooperative and loans for May and June have been duly paid.
“Following the report of leakages and fraud in the system, government conducted a verification exercise which came out with shocking discoveries, it was established that some workers were receiving salaries from two departments of government, some retired and or dead officers were still being paid salaries,some workers who have since retired were found to be collecting salaries in addition to their pensions.’’
Akinmade added that there were established cases of fraudulent adjustments in grade levels with officers on lower grade levels drawing salaries that were well over and above their official status among others etc. Meanwhile the opposition party APC in the state said it has placed the governor under a close watch and monitoring on the N14.6b bail out fund.
The Party said it has decided to closely monitor the governor on how effectively and promptly he will disburse the bail out fund. It’s spokesman, Abayomi Adesanya, in Akure challenged the government to explain the delay in the payment of the workers salary arrears despite collecting the bail out fund. Adesanya said the state governor should clear the air on the allegation of diverting the bail out fund into a fixed deposit account while the workers are languishing and subjected to untold hardship.