By David Odama
Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule has vowed to secure Local government councils from eminent collapse in the state.
This is even as he inaugurated a high-powered committee to investigate all local government councils in the state due to their inability to pay salaries of workers in the face of the autonomy granted the third-tier of government in the state.
Sule, while inaugurating the six-member committee at the Conference Hall of the Ministry for Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs in Lafia charged the panel to investigate issues surrounding the inability of local government councils to pay salary of their workers.
According to governor Sule, “the councils being the third-tier of government has the responsibility of ensuring development at the grassroots, the case has not been the same, even though the councils presently enjoy relative financial autonomy”, Sule said.
He cited accumulated pension arrears, percentage payment, and a backlog of gratuity, among others, as evidence of failure on the part of the councils with the situation causing despair and despondency among LG workers.
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The Governor recalled his commitment while assuming office in the state, to address the lingering issues of percentage payment of salaries, accumulated pension arrears, and over bloated salary figures.
The governor had mandated the Ministry for Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs, Auditor-General for Local Government and Local Government Service Commission to appraise the situation.
He further explained that preliminary measures put in place during the appraisal led to the suspension of the Directors of Personnel Management (DPMs) and Finance and Supplies (DFS), in the local government councils and development areas.
Sule said that setting up the investigative committee has became necessary because of observable discrepancies and irreconcilable issues that need to be ascertained to restore sanity and normalcy in the local government system.
The committee, whose terms of reference include among others, investigate the truth or otherwise of allegations against the DPMs and DFAs of local government councils, as well as development areas for non-payment of salaries.
Other areas of investigation is incitement of staff against the state government and over bloated salary figures allegedly perpetrated by the finance department of the Local government.
The panel is to also examine methods and deficiencies in the preparation of salary payment vouchers and printouts from 2012 to date.
Part of the committee’s terms of reference is to also recommend sanctions, where necessary, to individuals, groups, and institutions responsible for the inability of local government councils to fulfill their obligations.
Governor Sule however cautioned the committee against witch-hunt but to entrench financial discipline, transparency, accountability and prudent management of public resources in the conduct of local government business.
“As part of the commitment of this administration to introduce sanity in the local government system, administration has finalized arrangements to pay one-month arrears to council pensioners, to reduce their suffering, using the second tranche of the SIFTAS funds”, the governor declared.
The Governor who told members of the committee that their selection was based on their records of experience and hard work, charged them to live above board and to justify the confidence reposed in them.
In a vote of thanks, Chairman of the investigative committee, Mr. Ishaya Agidi Awotu, who doubles as the Chairman, Governing Council, College of Education Akwanga, noted that irregularities in financial management are a result of weak internal control.
While commending the Governor for undertaking to safeguard the assets of the state, the committee chairman assured that members will carry out the assignment with all seriousness.
He however cautioned against a situation where requests for basic financial information from the committee, will be delayed unnecessarily.