[From ANIEKAN ANIEKAN, Calabar]
Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade has tasked the new Head of Service (HoS), Geraldine Ekanem to fish out fugitive workers in the civil service.
The governor made the call after swearing her in at the Executive Council Chambers of the governor’s office.
Ayade lamented that the level of manipulation and fraud in the service stressing that he needs a HoS who have the capacity to address this challenge.
“At this time of the state’s economy when the revenue allocation for Cross River has nosedived, I don’t envy your job.
“The total allocation for the state last month put together was in the region of 900 million and it came at a time our wage bill is about 3.16 billion.
“And for those who don’t know we have been able to sustain salaries up to date and so as HoS one of the greatest challenges before you is to fish out fugitive workers.
“By virtues of your decent family and experience, please employ that to putting into check the level of manipulation of our payroll system.
“You have my support in transfers, demotions and whatever power is vested on me is passed to you so nobody will come back to say he is witch-hunted.
“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 sufficient capacity”, the governor said.
The governor queried the directors of personnel who he said have the responsibility of giving monthly personnel audit which they fail to do.
“If I walk into the ministries, I meet a fairly empty ministry but I come to the nominal roll, I will see a massive wage bill.
“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 lamented.
He said the monthly pension in the state has increased by 400 million from the time he assumed office.
He queried this increase saying it is expected that when pensions increase, salaries should reduce but with the increase in wage bill and pensions, it really calls for a thorough investigation.
The governor tasked the HoS to do her best as her appointment is devoid of emotion and purely on merit.
On her part, the new Head of Service thanked the governor for believing in her.
She pledged to leave a positive mark in the service and give her best to the best of her abilities.
Earlier the secretary to the state government, Tina Banko Agbor said the swearing in of the HoS is in line with the provision of the constitution.
She said the governor’s appointment of women into key positions demonstrates his commitment to gender equity.
Geraldine Ekanem hails from Ikom and takes over from Chris Ita who retired last year.
She was called to the Nigeria Bar Association in 1985 and joined the service in 1987.