Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue has explained why the Benue State government cannot continue to maintain the currently wage N7.9 billion monthly.
According to him while the wage bill at the state level was currently N4.2 billion that of local government councils stood at N3.7billion monthly, blaming Ghost workers and leakages as being responsible for what he called “alarming” wage bill.
He said the administration has commenced a comprehensive audit of staff which will last for three months to fish out ghost workers and remove personnel due for retirement who are still on the pay roll.
Ortom who spoke to State House Correspondents after a meeting at the presidential villa, Abuja, at the weekend said that the staff audit will put the government in a better position to pay all salaries being owed workers at both the state and local government council level.
“You will recall that I declared state of emergency on payment of salaries, and I want to have the capacity to pay salaries as and when due because a worker deserves his wages. We discovered that there were so many leakages on our payroll and ghost workers and infiltration here and there.
“I think that a wage bill of over N3.2 billion is too much at the state level. Then when you add pensions and gratuity you are talking about N4.2 billion, it is too much for Benue state.
And at the local government you have a wage bill of N3.7 billion. So, if you are talking about N7.9 billion for a state is not descent enough.
“Ghost workers, those who were due for retirement are still in the service, those who are dead are still collecting salaries and all that. So, we believe that at the end of the day we will be able to scale down to a level that we will be able to pay salaries as and when due,” he noted.
Ortom said his administration inherited a monthly wage bill of N8.2 billion from the government of former governor Gabriel Suswan but reduced it to N7.9 billion which he wants to further scale down.
The Benue State governor explained that the administration was currently applying a modified table payment system that will last through the period of the staff screening. He however said that no cash was involved in the system.
“What we are doing now is modified table payment. No cash will be involved but we do it and you collect your money through the bank, and we have already started making discoveries,” he added.
Ortom also expressed happiness with the flag off of export of yams by the Federal Government to the United Kingdom and America, noting will boost government’s policy of diversifying the economy.
He said that Benue State government and farmers will take full advantage of the yam export programme and other agriculture products such as sesame seeds and soybeans.
“Of course, the Chairman of yam exportation is from Benue state, a Professor from the Federal University of Agriculture and we are deeply involved in it. We believe that this is the way to drive the economy, diversifying it to agriculture and exporting it, earning hard currency will add value to our economic development,” he said.