By Samuel Oyadongha
YENAGOA—BAYELSA State Governor, Seriake Dickson, come clean, weekend, and said that local government councils in the state have fundamentally fallen to pieces and cannot even pay salaries to workers at the moment.
He stated this while inaugurating a 14-member Advisory Committee on Public Service Reforms, headed by former military governor of old Rivers State, HRM King Alfred Diete-Spiff, which he charged to stop leakages in the local government system and mobilize support for the ongoing re-organization of the state public service.
The governor, who gave the committee two months to complete its assignment, tasked it to help identify the wastages and other issues in the payroll system in the councils.
He said: “the greatest challenge we have is in the local government system and we are also looking at what is going on in the education system. The local government system, as we speak now, is at the point of almost total collapse as they cannot even meet up their salary responsibilities on a monthly basis because of all the fake names and other terrible things going on in their payroll system.
“And unless you, the stakeholders and leaders of our state from the various local government areas, stand up to sensitize and mobilize our people to say no and stop this fraud that has been going on over the years, our councils will collapse totally. It will be an abdication of our responsibility as leaders of this state, if we just sit idly by and watch this to happen.”
While describing the payroll fraud at the local government level of the state as monumental and unfortunate, the governor warned that if nothing urgent and drastic was done to rescue it from the hands of those hell-bent on sabotaging the efforts of the present administration, the worst could happen.
We won’t succumb to blackmail: According to him, no level of blackmail would make his administration to back down on the implementation of its reform agenda, aimed at repositioning the public service for efficiency and productivity.
He urged the committee to identify and stop leakages, particularly in the various local government councils, stressing that, his administration would review its present position on the payment of primary school teachers, only when the payrolls of the third tier of the government in the state have been sanitized.
To this end, Dickson directed the Commissioner for Local Government Administration, council chairmen and other relevant officials to work closely with the committee, especially in the area of providing baseline data to enable the government know the actual workforce.
The governor described the assignment as sensitive and charged the chairman and members to put aside sentiments, in addressing the issue of an over bloated workforce and, therefore, mandated them to take out all fake names as well as those, who are long overdue for retirement with the aim of creating job openings for young qualified Bayelsans in the public service.
2nd term agenda: According to the governor, the ongoing reforms make up an integral part of his second term agenda and urged the committee to complement the efforts of the government on sensitising the people on the importance of re-organising the public service by explaining the new policy thrust to community leaders and other stakeholders.
He said: “As a result of the groundwork that we have laid over the years, we now have some reliable data to work with. But the issue still remains the sensitization of the general public, and that is where your committee comes in; to sensitize the state on the need for the public service reforms that are going on.
Diete-Spiff assures: In his response, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, assured the state government of the committee’s desire towards achieving set goals within the stipulated time frame.
Other members of the committee are Chief Francis Doukpola (Vice Chairman); Dr Felix Tuodolo (Secretary), King Joshua Igbugburu, King Joshua Igbagara, King Funpere Akah, King Mozi Agara, King Godwin Igodo and King Bubaraye Dakolo.
Others are King George Lawson, Chief Agbodo Gbaseimo, Chief Tons Fetepigi and Mr Suru Oyarede.