Upon his assumption of office as the 4th democratically elected Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu engaged, with great solemnity the huge task of tackling the numerous challenges the State faced frontally.
Diligently, zealously and enthusiastically he launched into his administration's dedicated five pillars of development, which includes Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Industry, and Oil & Gas and enablers consisting of Ease of doing business, Infrastructure, Healthcare, Housing, Security, Media & Advocacy, and Education. There is hardly any of these sectors that have not received Governor Ikpeazu's Midas touch.
Previewing on financial management, in 2015, Governor Ikpeazu-led administration met Abia State monthly wage bill at N2.8 billion. When at June 2016 Abia monthly FAAC allocation nosedived to N1,923,982,456.53, it became obvious that the State could no longer maintain such a huge wage bill with a dwindling monthly allocation. Following this development, stringent measures were mobilized towards the approach of "wage bill management' initiated to tackling the menace of high wage bill visibly orchestrated by ghost workers syndrome. The success of the adopted “wage bill management’’ approach brought about the drop from N2.8 billion to N2.2 billion, and also played a major role in the up-to-date salary payment of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) segments of Abia civil servants.
Back to where we are today.
On Friday, July 27, the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu inaugurated a seven man committee to look into the salary arrears of some government parastatals being owed in the State with a view to clearing the backlog of the salary arrears.
The committee made up of the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku, Commissioner for Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs, Prince Christopher Enweremadu, the Head of Service, Sir Onyii Wamah, Chairman ASPADEC , Chief Sam Nwogu
Chairman Board of Internal Revenue, Elder Udochukwu Ogbonna, Accountant General, and the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Chief Emma Nwabuko, are poised to make a difference by making the staff of the Abia State government parastatals smile.
Abia State Governor has plans to clear the arrears of parastatals like Hospital Management Board (HMB), Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Primary School teachers, Secondary School teachers, Local Government Council workers, pensioners among others in the State.
The committee is expected to work out details of how the payments would be done and disbursed accordingly. In an interview, after meeting with the committee members, Governor Ikpeazu emphasized the need for Heads of Parastatals to begin to think out more resourceful ways of carrying out their responsibilities in Abia State. He said the measure the government would take to ensure some parastatals stand firm are:
- All tertiary institutions must close multiple accounts and introduce Single Treasury Account,
- That there must be a portal which students would use to make e-payments as students would no longer pay cash to the institutions, (amongst others).
According to the Governor, any parastatal that is unable to pay up its salaries by December, 2018 would risk closure. He also recommended Single Treasury Account for tertiary institutions in the State.
Ordinarily, government should be paying subventions to parastatals, while parastatals should fashion out ways of strengthening their finances. As revenue generating agencies and establishments, Parastatals should not expect government to pay their salaries, they are rather expected to be financially stable and even remit money to the government.
At this juncture, the leadership of Abia State University, Uturu, Prof. Uche E. Ikonne deserves commendation as the institution has in the last three years lived up to expectations. ABSU has within these years witnessed no strike actions and staff salaries have been up to date.
Thus, it is imperative that other revenue generating agencies and establishments in Abia State emulate ABSU and manage their resources and subventions well. This plan of the Governor to ensure that staff of the Parastatals in the State smile home with their salary arrears before the end of the year is worth doing. This is really a proof that the Governor has the interest of his workers at heart.
By: Ubani Newman Ubani (UNU), Senior Special Assistant, New Media, #AbiaOnline