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Ayade decries huge wage bills, says 1,840 cases in C’River courts

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By Joseph Kingston, Calabar

Governor Ben Ayade has lamented over-bloated wage bills of the state in the face of dwindling federal allocation, saying that, despite these challenges, the state was also spending a lot on handling its 1840 cases in court.

The governor made this known, Tuesday, during the swearing in of Geraldine Ekanem as substantive head of service (HoS) of the state.

He said “The total allocation for the state last month put together was in the region of N900 million and it came at a time our wage bill is about N3.16 billion and many do not know what the state goes through to sustain salary payment.

“The fraud in the payroll system is huge. Today we have a major case of about 16 billion and as we are struggling to survive that, we have another of about 6.5 million dollars with ECOWAS. We have over 1840 court cases inherited that warrants the state hiring lawyers, we are paying just so much so I need a head of service who will provide me with sufficient capacity.

“So, as HoS, one the greatest challenge you will have is to fish-out fugitive workers because I inherited a pension bill of N340 million per month but as at today, our pension stands at about N740 million and I don’t understand where the additional N400 million comes from.

“You can juxtapose it against the fact that I met a civil service salary structure of about N1.2 billion now it has risen to about N2.1 billion. It is expected that when pension is increasing, salaries should be reduced but to have an increase in salaries and pension when there is no commensurate recruitment from the government calls for investigation.

“So, I implore you to use your skill as a professional civil servant and a lawyer to check the level of manipulation in the state payroll system. I need you to put an end to the illegal recruitment and sneaking of names into the payroll system.

“I noticed that impress (funds) are not retired in the ministries, also, personnel audit which is supposed to be quarterly and fed to the accountant general to complete salary for the month is not done. By 2022, most civil servants in the state will approach 35 years of service and due for retirement, you will have a duty for the massive recruitment of personnel.

“But bear in mind that as these people retire, they will retire into pension, so, as you recruit, bear in mind that you are recruiting them into the payroll, it will be double jeopardy if you have a huge wage bill with a corresponding pension.

“Each time I attempt to do an audit and reduce the payroll by about 60 million for example, petitions will come in that I was sick and by the time all of them come back, the 60 million that was reduced will become 70 million. So, for every audit, we end up having more names on the payroll,” the governor stated.

Responding, the new head of service thanked the governor for believing in her and pledged to and give her best to the best of her abilities.

The Ikom-born Geraldine Ekanem is a lawyer by profession and was called to the Bar in 1985 and joined the service in 1987. She took over from Mr Chris Ita who retired last year.

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