BURDENED by huge wage bill, Benue State government has commenced the verification of workers to weed out ghost ones among them with Governor Samuel Ortom declaring that dead people are still on the payroll of government.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the weekend in Abuja, he vowed to scale down the alarming staff wage bill which he said amounts to N7.9billion a month.
According to him, the wage bill at the state level is currently N4.2billion a month while that of local government councils in the state stands at N3.7billion monthly.
Ortom said there is no way the state can sustain the payment and yet meet with its developmental obligations.
He therefore rationalised the decision to carry out a comprehensive staff audit to eliminate ghost workers and personnel due for retirement but are still on the pay roll.
The governor said the exercise which will last for three months, will put the government in a better position to pay all salaries being owed workers at both the state and local government council level.
Ortom said: “You will recall that I declared a state of emergency on payment of salaries. 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 decent 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 explained that his administration inherited a monthly wage bill of N8.2billion but had reduced it to N7.9billion.
“Though we inherited N8.2 billion and through various screenings we were able to scale down to N7.9 billion,” Ortom said.
He also explained that his government is at the moment applying a modified table payment system that that does not however involve cash payment, which he said will last through the period of the staff verification exercise.
“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 expressed delight at the flag-off of export of yams by the Federal Government as he noted that the initiative will boost government’s policy of diversifying the economy.
He also said Benue State government and farmers will take full advantage of the yam export programme and other agriculture products such as sesame seeds and soybeans.
“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,” Ortom stated.