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By: Ade Adeleke
There are indications that effects of the COVID-19 lockdown have started crippling resources of the Ondo state government as it is now indebted to #3.4billion borrowed from commercial banks to settle workers’ salary related issues.
The government explained that as a result of the dwindling resources in the last few months especially from the federation account, the state government had been struggling to meet its salary obligations including delay in the remittance of deductions to workers’ cooperative societies.
The state Head of Service, Mr Dare Aragbaiye disclosed this today in Akure, the state capital during a press conference he addressed alongside leadership of the organized labour Unions.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is reputed for paying workers salary as and when due since assumption of office on February, 2017.
The Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Sunday Adeleye-Oluwole; the TUC Chairman, Comrade Helen Odofin and the JNC Chairman, Comrade Niyi Fabunmi had earlier sought immediate payment of outstanding workers’ deductions for the past four months.
The labour leaders who also commended the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s administration for offsetting six months salary arrears inherited from his predecessor’s administration, said they had submitted list of their demands to the state government for actions.
Reacting, the state Head of Service, Mr Dare Aragbaiye, flanked by some Permanent Secretaries and the state Accountant General, Mr Olaolu Akindolie, explained that that contrary to speculation in some quarters, the local government workers and primary school teachers were not receiving half salary.
Aragbaiye said, “the delay in the remittance of deductions was also occasioned by dwindling resources and are therefore not withheld unjustly.
“They are paid in arrears based on the monthly allocations received by the State which is grossly inadequate to meet the wage bill of the State. For instance, a total sum of N4.20b was received as allocation for the month of April, 2020 while the wage bill amounted to N4.72b.
“It therefore means 2 months allocation would be required to conveniently pay 1 month’s salaries. Therefore, the State in its wisdom has decided to pay Net salaries and then wait for funds to accumulate before paying/remitting the deductions.
“This has been the trend. This Administration will prioritize the payment of deductions within the next few weeks. As at April, 2020 the State is indebted to Commercial Banks to a tune of N3.46 billion on salary related issues.
“The Banks concerned have continued to show rare understanding due to the integrity of this Administration in the prudent management of available fund,” the HoS said.
Aragbaiye also spoke about the salary situation for local government workers and primary school teachers.
He opined, “the truth is that payment of salaries to Local Government Workers is being prorated since February 2020 due to continuous decline in the monthly allocation from FAAC.
“For instance, 90% of salaries was paid in February, 2020. In March, 2020 the 10% balance was paid with a 70% salary for March based on available funds.
“In April, the 30% balance of March salary was paid alongside 60% salaries for April. The trend continued in May 2020 where 40% balance left for April was paid with 50% salaries for the month of May. At present, only 50% of May Salary is outstanding and would be paid as soon as June allocation comes.
EMPLOYMENT OF TEACHERS
Aragbaiye declared that Governor Akeredolu had approved the recruitment of 1,000 teachers to fill some vacant positions in the state’s primary education sector.
The governor also gave the approval for the employment of about 432 health workers to fill in the personnel gap in the primary health sector of the state.
According to the HOS, the governor gave the approval for the recruitment, as part of his commitment to repositioning the public service in the state.
He said , “in collaboration of SUBEB ( State Universal Basic Education Board) with Local Government Service Commission some local Government staff with teaching qualification were transferred to SUBEB as class teachers in addition to conversion of 75 non-teaching staff of the board to other cadres in the teaching service to fill the widening vacancies in our schools.
“In spite of the paucity of funds, Mr. Governor has approved the recruitment of 1,000 teachers with B.Ed. and NCE qualifications, that is, 200 vacancies for candidates with B.Ed. while 800 are for NCE holders. The recruitment exercise, which shall be school based, that is, for specific schools, will start within the next two weeks.”
Aragbaye, who advised the prospective candidates to visit SUBEB portal for further information on the recruitment in the next two weeks, maintained that the government was ready to fill the wide gaps in the teaching sector.
The state Head of Service also stated that the recruitment exercise in the primary healthcare sector would be facility-based and would commence very soon.
He added that the general recruitment across the entire public service was currently being considered by the government.
“Mr Governor in his avowed commitment to reposition the public service granted approvals for recruitment into some critical sectors and areas of special needs and the officers have since assumed duties. Within the period, 757 additional workers have been recruited,” Aragbaiye revealed.