The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, has disclosed that unpaid gratuities of pensioners from the state civil service currently stand at N20 billion.
He made the disclosure during the state government’s public-service-reform town hall meeting for Nembe Local Government Area which was held on Thursday at Nembe.
According to him, the administration of Governor Seriake Dickson inherited the accumulated gratuities from past governments in the state.
“The gratuities alone now is N20 billion; unpaid gratuities is N20 billion as at today. These are monies that we inherited from previous government before ours”, Iworiso-Markson said.
Stakeholders of Nembe, including Senator Barigha Amange; Allen Fente, chairman, restoration caucus in the LGA; Ngo Iwowari-Gold, Ben Ololo and Iniobioyo Obiene, lawmakers representing the area in the state House of Assembly and Jonathan Obuebite, Commissioner for Education and his counterpart from Science and Technology, Blessing Ipigansi, among others, had in their separate remarks, voiced their support for the reform.
The Information Commissioner said it was unacceptable for some fraudulent persons in the system to perpetrate the unwholesome practices through which they had collected the state’s resources over the years.
He said the wage bill of pensioners gulps N650million every month and that it used be about N500million.
Iworiso-Markson, who urged the people of the area to own the reform process and stand up against payroll fraud, employment racketeering, age falsification and certificate forgery, stressed that it was improper for people to serve their state meritoriously and would not be paid their gratuity after retiring from service.
He added: “Things have gone wrong, and we must tell ourselves the truth. You don’t have to like Governor Dickson’s face, but if a man comes out and says, ‘I want to correct this error that has been following us all these years’, I think we should support him.
“The challenge we have now is that our pension wage bill does not go down. The names of many dead pensioners are still on the payroll and somebody is collecting it.
“That is what the reform has come to do. Now as we speak, the pension wage bill is N650million every month. Before it was over N500million. If we are not careful, our pension wage bill will get to N1billion every month. I don’t know how the state can survive If we don’t correct this error.”
A retiree who gave his name as Stephen Apiri-Angama, said all pensioners were behind the governor on the reform to clean up the public service, noting that the administration had earlier committed N250 monthly to settle pensions before the economic recession in the country.