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Delta Accountant General, Cyril Agbele speaks on why the state is able to pay workers regularly



Delta Accountant General, Cyril Agbele in alleged N14bn fraud scandal
L-R: Cyril Agbele and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa

Delta State Accountant-General, Cyril Agbele has explained why Delta State pays its workforce regularly. Agbele, in an interview, said the state adopted a deliberate policy of paying salaries and pensions on a first line charge basis.

He said: “By implication, no other payment such as contracts obligation and overhead are made until salaries are paid.  This policy is borne out of this administration’s conviction that human resource is a key factor in the successful implementation of the administration’s SMART agenda. The administration’s resolve at ensuring welfare of both serving public servants and pensioners is also reflected in its commitment towards settlement of outstanding contributory pensions past benefit arrears that were accumulated by the past administration.”

He added that Delta State government could fare well without oil.

“It would have been difficult but not unmanageable as our economic realities such as employment strength would have been tailored in line with our revenue profile. In the same manner, certain interventionist agencies such as Delta State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) would not have been created with its attendant development strides across the oil-producing and difficult to reach riverside communities.

“The state’s public service had 49,632 public servants, 2,208 political office holders and 4,669 Youth Corps/Student Nurses; totalling 56,509 staff strength on its pay roll as at May 29, 2015 when this administration took over.

“However, with cost-saving measures put in place through the Biometric screening of the pay roll, 403 people have been weeded out from the service while the staff strength has been reduced to 44,058, 2,546 political office holders and 975 Corps/Student Nurses all totalling 47,579 at the end of August, 2018.

“Suffice to note that aside biometric screening, retirements and other natural means of exit from the service accounts for the reduction in staff strength. Similar feat has been achieved in pension administration through strict monitoring and screening by the state’s pension administrators with 11,606 pensioners in the “pay as you go” scheme at inception and 9,464 as at August 31, 2018 respectively.

“The pension figures are, however, without prejudice to additions and exits associated with natural retirement/deaths within the period under review,” he said.

On Delta State monthly IGR and Lagos’, he said:  “It is instructive to note that Lagos State remains the commercial nerve centre of this country and the most cosmopolitan of every other state in Nigeria.

In the circumstances, it has the advantage of hosting commercially-viable sea ports and international airports with its concomitant commercial activities in goods and services which place it at a vantage position above other states in harnessing revenues.

“The foregoing notwithstanding, Delta State has, within its constrained position of not having a functional sea port/international airport managed to shore up its Internally Generated Revenue to an average of between N4 – N5 billion monthly through reforms in its taxes and fees regime.

“The state has galvanised taxes from hitherto untapped informal sector and land/allied resources regularisation policies.

“The foregoing modest IGR achievement is in spite loss of PAYE taxes arising from relocation of major oil companies from the state due to security challenges for which this administration has put in concerted efforts to restore normalcy and peaceful environment to engender oil production activities.

“The assertion that without the 13% Oil Derivation that Delta State would have been bankrupt like other states in the country is wrong.

“This assertion is not correct, as the state would have tailored its expenditure along its revenue profile. Like I earlier mentioned, most recruitments into the public service would have been tailored to the state’s profile for example, likewise contractual obligations and other expenditure lines.

“In addition to the above, it is worthy to note that the state undergoes a critical cost benefit and liquidity ratio analysis by technical experts within its public service as well as debt sustainability analysis under the purview of the Debt Management Office before embarking on any borrowing with a view to ensuring a sustainable debt position.  Consequently, the assertion of likelihood of bankruptcy without oil is fallacious.”

On the role of Delta State government in re-settlement of erstwhile militants, Agbele said: “I am aware that the state government has adopted multifaceted strategies towards ensuring and enthroning peace in the Niger Delta not just for Delta State but also for the entire country.  It is without doubt that peace in the Niger Delta is essential for the development of the country as it engenders uninterrupted oil production and gas activities in the region.”

On steps to be more financially solvent, he said the state has put the following measures in place: “Realistic budgeting that are not superfluous in addition to strict budgetary control using the SAP, ERP Software, strict financial discipline through procurement reforms, cash budgeting, biometric time and attendance scheme on pay roll and prioritisation of capital expenditure for maximum multiplier impact on the population. Award of contacts within expected inflows. Invoice discounting of contractual obligations to manage liquidity and ensure that contractors remain on site, strengthened internal controls in the revenue generation chain with emphasis on broadening the state’s tax net through informal sector participation and blocking of all loopholes that could encourage leakages.

Such strategies include Direct Bank Lodgement System for all classes of revenue introduction of e-receipts to reduce service turnaround time for clients while blocking the loophole of proliferation of government receipts, among other strategies.”