The Salary Verification Committee set up by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom to look into the bloated wage bill of the state, has revealed that the state government lost over N1.4bn to irregular payments of salaries, between June 2015 and October 2016.
Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Tertsegha Ikyaabo, announced this on Wednesday, when he led other members of the committee to present an interim report to Governor Ortom, at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi.
Mr. Ikyaabo explained that the report covers about 10,300 staff in 60 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs) of government, using actual verification of salary payment vouchers, staff records and physical sighting of staff, as parameters for the exercise.
He said the Committee discovered eight ways by which salary increases were illegally effected in the various MDAs, some of which were inclusion of 81 persons either dead or retired, on the payroll of government, amounting to N116.1 million within the period under review.
Others, according to the Committee Chairman, include 91 persons collecting salaries above their grade levels and those given appointments outside the mainstream of the state civil service, who continue to enjoy salaries, long after been relieved of such appointments, amounting to N105.9 million, within the same period.
He stated that, there were 35 cases where some greedy officers found themselves transferred to places without going through laid down procedures with N18.6 million collected as salaries in addition to another category of 30 officers, whose contracts expired but continued to draw salaries worth N36.2 million, a situation he stressed had added to the already high state wage bill.
The Chairman urged Governor Ortom to take urgent steps, to expunge all the identified beneficiaries of the illegal payments from the payroll, to plug the leakage of government resources, adding that, other sectors, such as tertiary institutions owned by the state, Health Management Board and the State Teaching Service Board, were next to be verified.
Responding, Governor Ortom, said the interim report was confirmation of the Committee’s capacity in assisting the State Government to unravel the mystery behind its huge wage bill, saying that, the N1.4bn lost to the fraud would have greatly helped to clear salary arrears of workers.
A statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary, Tever Akase, said the Governor handed the report to the Chairman, Salary Payment Committee and State Deputy Governor, Engineer Benson Abounu, with a task to expedite action on its implementation.