By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, has inaugurated a high powered committee to investigate why local government councils in the state are unable to pay salary of workers at the third-tier of governance.
Engineer Sule inaugurates the six-member committee, at a ceremony that held at the Conference Hall of the Ministry for Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs, on Friday.
Inaugurating the high powered committee, the Governor specifically charged them to investigate issues surrounding the inability of local government councils in the state, to effect payment of salary of their workers.
While noting that, the councils, being the third-tier of governance, were charged with the responsibility of ensuring development at the grassroots, the Governor however said the case has not been the same, in spite of the fact that the councils presently enjoy relative financial autonomy.
Engineer Sule cited accumulated pension arrears, percentage payment and backlog of gratuity, among others, as evidence of failure on the part of the councils in the discharge of their constitutional responsibility, with the situation causing despair and despondency among LG workers.
Aware of this development, the Governor recalled his commitment while assuming the mantle of leadership in the state, to address the lingering issues of percentage payment of salaries, accumulated pension arrears and overbloated salary figures.
According to Engineer Sule, his administration therefore 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.
The Governor added 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.
Engineer Sule explained that setting up the investigative committee became necessary because of observable discrepancies and irreconcilable issues which need to be ascertained, in order to restore sanity and normalcy in the local government system.
The committee, which has six terms of reference, will 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-payments of salaries, incitement of staff against the state government and overbloated salary figures.
It will 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.
Engineer Sule cautioned that the constitution of the committee should not be seen as an effort to witch-hunt anybody but instead, 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 his administration to introduce sanity in the local government system, his 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 charged members of the committee, selected based on their records of experience and hard work, to live above board and to justify the confidence reposed in them.
“You must carry out your assignment diligently, devoid of any sentiment or favouritism,” he tasked members of the committee.
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, is as 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 decried a situation where request for basic financial information from the committee, will be delayed unnecessarily.