Indicted ex-government official returned N370m, says Ortom

Samuel Ortom

• Benue needs N40b to clear salary arrears
• Delta to recover N12b from staff verification exercise

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday said an investigative panel set by his administration discovered that past government officials looted N107 billion from the state coffers.

He revealed that one of the persons indicted by the panel had refunded N370 million to the state government.He, however, lamented that the state requires N40 billion to clear the backlog of salary arrears owed its workers.

Ortom gave the hint in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua in Makurdi yesterday.He, however, denounced claims that the state owed workers 10 months salary arrears at a stretch, explaining that he had not breached his agreement with labour leaders in the state on the payment of salaries.

“I have kept my agreement with labour leaders that as a result of insufficient funds, the federal allocation of two months would be combined to pay one month’s full salary of workers,” he said.

He explained that it was the accumulation of the unpaid months that gave the wrong impression of 10 months at a stretch.Ortom also expressed regret that the N8.2 billion wage bill inherited from the past administration had compounded the financial status of the state.

He said his administration had reduced the wage bill to N7.8 billion, adding that the recovery of looted funds would help address the challenges of unpaid salaries and cash crunch faced by his administration.

Meanwhile, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has said that the state government would recover over N12.3billion from public servants who falsified their records of service.

He directed that the over 530 staff who falsified their retirement age or refused to appear before the Verification Committee On Age Discrepancy, Date of Birth and Employment of Public Officers in the state should be removed from the payroll immediately.

Receiving the final report from the Committee, which was headed by Nkem Okwuofu, the governor decried falsification of documents and laxity on the part of those who encourage fraud in the public service.

His words: “I think that there is a lot of laxity in the system and we must find a way to improve on the workability of the system and people must be held liable and disciplined if they do not do their duties.

So, henceforth, any place we find such laxity the people at the head including the permanent secretaries or the directors must be disciplined themselves otherwise such acts will continue and it should not be because it is very embarrassing to see people that have died over three years ago are still being paid.”He commended the committee for the exercise and assured that government would implement their recommendations to improve the state civil service.

Presenting the report, Okwuofu disclosed that a total of 4,742 persons were screened, out of which 1,695 were cleared, 137 were asked to proceed on retirement, 810 had their dates of birth and employment corrected and 2,085 verified and affirmed while 402 were absent.She revealed that N12.3 billion was recovered from the exercise.

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Samuel Ortom
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