The Kwara state Government has declared that its directive that workers in the state should open new salary accounts with commercial banks of their choice is neither punitive nor designed to cripple micro finance banks in the state.
The government added that the move, among other measures is to fight the menace of ghost workers which continues to gulp millions of public funds at the expense of development. It recalled that the Federal Government had also taken similar steps to clean up its payroll and restore sanity in the system.
“We want to clarify that the decision of the government is not a punitive measure targeted at anyone. We also want to clarify that this initiative was long conceived before this administration. Perhaps the difference here is that this administration is mustering the courage to do what is right in full appreciation of the mandate of the people of Kwara State and save scarce public resources” the Chief Press Secretary to the state Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye disclosed this at a news briefing in Ilorin, the state capital.
“The government has actionable intelligence from various security agencies that the much-talked about ghost worker syndrome is deeply enabled through transactions involving some of these institutions with the collusion of some unscrupulous government functionaries. This is a cancer that continues to eat into public resources at the expense of development. The government has a duty to end the circus” he added.
A structured pay roll system
Ajakaye said the decision forms a part of the effort to clean the government’s pay roll — a move he added has been further necessitated by the pressure to meet workers’ demand for minimum wage and other obligations.
“To clean the payroll, the administration has adopted some measures which include making sure that salaries are paid only through commercial banks for easy monitoring; physical head count of workers through cash payment; electronic clock-in; and biometric verification. The decision to use only commercial banks to pay salary is the first leg of these multi-pronged approaches,” he said.
“We wish to clarify that this policy does not seek to kill our micro finance banks or local businesses. Workers or pensioners who wish to keep their accounts with these banks reserve the right to keep an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) with their commercial banks to transfer their salaries to their respective micro finance banks once the government first pays into them (commercial banks). The policy also does not hurt people in the villages where the commercial banks have no branches. Such workers can place an ISPO with their commercial banks to forward their salaries to their MFBs accounts.
“The MFBs have complained that some of these workers are indebted to them and that taking their salaries away could leave them in debt. The government has allayed this fear. The government is willing to ensure that affected workers agree an ISPO between the banks until such debts have been fully paid. The MFBs should report any erring civil servant to the office of the Head of Service for appropriate sanctions. The government will set up an ombudsman office to look into such matters to prevent anyone from defrauding the MFBs.
“Once again, this decision has been taken in public interest as well as block leakages. It is not intended to hurt small businesses as some persons have insinuated. Besides, the government has explained all the issues to the affected MFBs while also assuring them that no worker will be allowed to default on loans already extended to them by such banks. Besides, civil servants who want to keep an account with the MFBs are free to do so — including getting their choice commercial bank to transfer their salary to the MFBs immediately the government has paid their salaries in line with the new policy.”
The Kwara State Chairman of the National Association of Microfinance Banks, Alhaji Ahmad Baba Suleiman on Wednesday at a news conference pleaded with the state government to rescind its decision on the policy which the government vehemently turned down.