The current administration of Governor Inuwa Yahaya came to power with full determination to change the narratives albeit historic inherited liabilities of over N119.02 billion out of which pension and gratuities alone, accounted for N14.83 billion or 12.5 percent of the total liabilities. These gratuities and pension arrears ought to have been fully settled by the previous administration that received over N17.5 billion in budget support and bail-out.
Despite this development, the administration of Governor Inuwa Yahaya in response to years of clamor under the previous administration swiftly settled about N1.1 billion pension arrears out of the total and engaged in far-reaching reforms to repositioned and realigned local government finances as most of the problem areas are at the doorstep of local government areas.
The administration of Governor Inuwa Yahaya abolished Joint State and LGA’s account three months into his stewardship, redeployed Secretaries and Treasurers to their local government of origin to avert the culture of “fiscal misappropriation and I don’t care attitude” and to forestall discipline in public financial management with the expectations that the redeployed staff would have a high stake in the affairs of their Local Government.
The administration has also stopped the practice of borrowing to pay salary in which a standing facility of N1.3 billion is open to the Joint State and LG for payment of salaries, particularly to State, LGA, and LEA staff with its attendant high-interest rate and debt accumulation by the local government. The LG reform led to the decentralization of statutory allocation and IGR to each LGA instead of the previous practice of pooling LGA’s resources in one basket and using it to develop other LGAs, thus encouraging fiscal irresponsibility by economic managers. This executive lawlessness in the name of Joint State and Local Government account has left about five (5) LGAs technically insolvent (in debt) – Akko (N1.04 billion), Gombe (N2.12 billion), Balanga (N370 million), Kaltungo (N950 million), Yamaltu – Deba (N200 million) as of May 2019.
With the above reforms in place, the State Government had to loan the sum of N200.0 million to Gombe local government to be able to pay salaries alone not to talk of pension and gratuities for our seniors who toils for about 35 years in service for the development of Gombe State and on which the Federal Government has given over N17.5 billion in the name of budget support to upset.
Recently, the issue of “minimum wage” was at the front burner and many analysts are making erroneous assumptions and analysis which informed this brief. As the Chairman of Fiscal Responsibility Commission and an advocate of fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability, I felt obliged to pen down the true situations of things.
Our recent analysis of LGA’s ability to pay “minimum wage” revealed that only four (4) LGAs can be able to pay minimum wage for the month only, courtesy of Governor Muhammadu Inuwa reforms which enable some LGAs to make savings. The analysis was based on three scenarios (Worse allocation from FAAC to LGAs, Average from FAAC to LGAs, and Current allocation from FAAC to LGAs). Under the worse allocation scenario and by increasing wages by just 10% (which is equivalent to N1,000), only Funakaye and Nafada LGAs can be able to pay minimum wage for one month and nothing more. In the second scenario, in which we averaged all allocations (best and worse), only Funakaye and Nafada LGAs can be able to pay minimum wage for one month. Lastly, on the current scenario (current statutory allocation to LGAs), only Billiri, Dukku, Funakaye, Kwami, and Nafada can be able to pay minimum wage for one month. Based on the three scenarios, there is no basis for borrowing to pay salaries while our seniors are wallowing without pension and gratuities.
It is therefore imperative to mention here that the only way out of the quagmire is for the LGA to embark on payroll cleansing and aggressive IGR drive. On the payroll cleansing, it can be done via continuous staff audit through a biometric attendance register. Unlike the previous one-off verification, the biometric attendance would expose those who are on the payroll but working or living elsewhere.
It is totally unbelievable for one to defend the number of people working in the LGAs, more especially if one is a regular visitor to the LGA Secretariats and our schools. For the avoidance of doubt, the number of individuals on the payroll in the eleven (11) local governments are – Akko (5,174 staff), Balanga (3,339 staff), Billiri (2,714 staff), Dukku (3,201 staff), Funakaye (2,818 staff), Gombe (4,559 staff), Kaltungo (2,945 staff), Kwami (3,111 staff), Nafada (2,454 staff), Shongom (2,721 staff), Y/Deba (3,656 staff). The staff position of the eleven LGAs in Gombe State including those working in the LEAs stood at 36,692.
As an analyst or advocate of good governance, what will do? Will you allow ghost workers or notional staff to be collecting all LGAs resources when our parents, neighbors, brothers, friends, relations, etc are waiting for their pension and gratuities? Which type of injustice is it to maintain someone who is not working on the payroll? What can we tell our God? How will you pay the outstanding pension and gratuities without forensically cleaning the payroll, trim down unjustifiable expenditure, and improving IGR collection?