Posted by Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu | 21 October 2019 | 718 times
It has been the utmost desire of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to leave an efficient civil service system in Abia State, by the time he leaves office in 2023. Part of the strategy driving this reform was Ikpeazu’s stance to plug every avenue through which government resources leak, which necessitated an intensive staff verification exercise to uncover the ghost workers in the civil service system.
The exercise in the early periods of Ikpeazu’s administration yielded good result, as the government announced that it saved up to N160 million from the exercise. The development signalled an end to the ghost-worker racketeering in the state as the governor also declared those involved in the racketeering and misappropriation of worker’s salaries as enemies of the state.
The governor had decried the situation thus: “And, even as I speak, the biometric verification exercise of workers will be an ongoing thing. This is an opportunity to call on those involved in this to turn a new leaf; because, if anybody is fished out to be involved in the ghost workers’ syndrome and misappropriation of salaries will be treated as enemies of the state, because they have held Abia down for so long.
“Some people are in this racket, it has become their business and, even as we speak, they are looking for ways to cut corners. But I want to declare to them that the game is up, because I will keep at it and make sure I put a final stop to the anomaly.”
Abia government stopped at nothing to ensure that there was a sanitised service system in the state, as it proposed a re-orientation of the state civil service, to bring about a new way of thinking within the system.
The massive re-orientation programme, according to Ikpeazu, will help identify those capable and determined to work, while those who cannot keep pace with what is happening will drop by the way side.
Indeed, the governor’s reform of the civil service is ongoing, especially in those parastatals that should put in immense efforts in paying staff salaries outside subventions from the state government.
One of such institutions is the Abia Polytechnic, Aba, which has been saddled with nagging salary issues for some sometime.
The management of the institution, in a bid to reposition the polytechnic for greater operational efficiency, recently began the implementation of the review report on verification of staff and their certificates, which was approved by the state executive council in April this year. The exercise disengaged 258 workers from the services of the institution.
The institution, in a release signed by its Public Relations Officer, Chinyere Eze, on behalf of the management noted: “Following painstaking verification and reviews, letters have been issued to 258 staff members whose services are no longer required by the institution.”
According to the release, all the affected staff are receiving full severance payment in line with their condition of service with the school, adding that the affected staff received due outstanding salaries as other workers are being paid.
The spokesperson noted that the ongoing reform is expected to position the institution to achieve its motto of “Towards excellence in technology”, meet regular salary obligations of its workforce, as well as create necessary environment for academic excellence that the institution is known for.
The exercise is apt, commendable and the best way to go for a polytechnic encumbered with a bloated workforce of 1,250 workforce. Of the 1, 250 staff, 900 are non-teaching while 350 are teaching staff, opposed to the recommended ratio of three teaching staff to two non-teaching staff by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
This situation has saddled the institution with an astronomical monthly salary profile of over N160 million.
The internally-generated revenue (IGR) of the polytechnic has depleted drastically because of the decline in students enrollment – the mainstay of the institution’s IGR. The students enrollment declined to all-time low of 12,000 (upper limit) to10,000 (lower limit).
Also, with revenue situation of N53,150 from fees from students and N90 million subvention from the state government, the polytechnic will not be able to sustain eight months’ salaries of staff, assuming staff salary payment is the only monetary need bothering the school.
In a bid to reduce cost and proffer a way of how the institution can navigate the muddy waters of payment of salaries, staff verification exercise had to be conducted.
The grounds of verification bothered on those who have issues with their files, those who are about to retire, those found guilty of irregularities in their birth certificates and First School Leaving Certificates, and those with hanging disciplinary issues.
On this note, while the management of the institution continue to wield its surgical scalpel to weed out more unqualified staff, members of the teaching staff should also contribute their bid to ensure that the school is totally pulled out from its salary logjam.
These efforts should manifest through an unresolved commitment of members of the teaching staff to disengage from other private teaching activities with other higher institutions within and outside Aba. This will enable the lecturers to concentrate more and give their best, thereby improving the dampened image of the school.
The staff unions also have a hand in the recuperation of the institution by desisting to call out their members for strike periodically, especially during admission periods. This has strongly hampered the enrollment strength of the school.
Ikpeazu also deserves kudos for rescuing the school from N2 billion facilities which were hanging on the neck of the management of the institution like the sword of Damocles. The servicing of the facilities was also taking toll on the institution monthly.
The same kudos should be extended to the management of the polytechnic for blocking leakages in the revenue of the institution. Now, every financial transaction in the institution is made through the bank to avoid misappropriation, while admission and checking of results and other processes are now done online.
The surgery sessions at Abia State Polytechnic, should not cease, and the surgeon should not lay down his scalpel until all malignant growths are removed.
•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, via email@example.com
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