By Daniel Agbo
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, yesterday, promised to prosecute the cabal behind the over-bloated wage bill in the state which had made it very difficult to pay workers’ salary as and when due.
Speaking at the monthly stakeholders meeting held at the People’s House, Makurdi, the governor noted that, going by the recent figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics, Benue ranked third among states with the highest wage bill in the country.
Ortom said that the situation has made it difficult for government to pay salaries as at when due, noting that his administration was set to reduce the monthly wage bill of the state from 7.8 billion to N4.5billion.
He said, already, a staff verification and biometrics committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, had been set up to look into how the wage bill of the state could be trimmed down to a manageable level.
Also addressing stakeholders at the meeting, Engr Abounu disclosed that so many anomalies were discovered during the ongoing staff verification exercise.
He said the committee painstakingly looked at many grey areas, including disengagement of contract staff, removal of medical students from state government’s pay roll, reduction in the salary of tertiary institution staff and screening of pensioners.
Other areas to be considered are, laying off of contract staff of Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) who were later converted to civil servants, laying off of medically unfit civil servants, merging of the state’s owned College of Advanced and Professional Studies (CAPS) with the Benue State Polytechnics as well as the payment of SIWES allowance which hitherto had been
dubiously enjoyed by some state workers monthly to a yearly allowance.
In their responses, speakers, including Senator Jack Gyado, Prof. Jerry Agada, Prof. Mvendaga Jibo and Godwin Donko among others agreed to the plans to bring down the wage bill of the state but differed in their submission on how to achieve the feat.