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ACCOUNTABILITY PRESS BRIEFING ON THE OFFICE OF THE HEAD OF SERVICE PRESENTED BY THE HEAD OF SERVICE, INWATA ADAIKWU AT THE NIGERIAN UNION OF JOURNALISTS (NUJ) CONFERENCE HALL, MAKURDI ON FRIDAY, 24TH FEBRUARY, 2017 Protocol I deem it a great honour indeed, for me to interact with members of the pen profession as I present this accountability press briefing on the entire civil service of Benue State under the tutelage of His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom. Indeed, it is heart-warming to see that you are keeping to the age-long tradition of ensuring that information on governance reaches the governed. This is in keeping with the accountability posture of the government of the day, since there can be no accountability and transparency without proper information dissemination. The Office of the Head of Service serves as a coordinating center of the entire state’s civil service. In this regard, it is the secretariat of the Civil Service, liaising with all levels, arms and other statutory organs of government to ensure the attainment of set goals and objectives. The office is charged with the statutory role of providing leadership and direction for the civil service for efficient and effective service delivery through planning, organizing, controlling, coordinating, training, supervising, directing, reporting and advising on all service matters, as well as ensuring the smooth operations of the state bureaucracy. In fact, the Head of Service manages and maintains the Public Service structure as well as the human and material resources employed for government to achieve set goals and objectives. The Office of the Head of Service has broad based functions which are encapsulated in the functions of the five bureaux of administration, establishment and management services, service welfare, pensions and also manpower development and training. The bureaux are headed by permanent secretaries under the coordination of the Head of Service. Despite having come in at a very difficult period, the Governor Ortom-led administration has proved that it is sensitive to the yearnings of civil servants and pensioners. Thus, in the face of difficulties occasioned by the general economic recession, the current regime has been able to record some landmark achievements that impact on serving and retired civil servants. Appointments In order to strengthen the structure of the civil service, this government has appointed a total of fourteen new permanent secretaries since its inception. In addition, eleven substantive directors have been appointed and plans are on to appoint more from the pool of qualified acting directors. Public Service Reforms It is very clear to all that accountability is the watchword of this administration. To this end, the Governor and his able team saw the need for public service reforms. The committee that was set up to work out a framework for the implementation of the reforms has made recommendations which are being looked into. The ultimate is to uplift and upgrade public service for maximum productivity. The re-structuring of ministries to arrive at a manageable number of thirteen (13) only is also a step in the right direction. The screening exercise conducted for pensioners from 10th to 21st August, 2015 helped the government to save over twenty million naira by shading off “ghost pensioners” who incidentally, failed to show up during the screening. In its zeal to improve on the conduct of pension matters, government has constituted an executive committee to overhaul pension administration which is a step towards having the state key into the Contributory Pension Scheme. Already, officials of PENCOM are being expected in the state to interface with the State Committee on Contributory Pension Scheme. Welfare of Serving and Retired Civil Servants Despite serious economic challenges, this administration has made good efforts to improve on the welfare of serving and retired civil servants. Though the office of the Head of Service does not have the jurisdiction to give account of payment of salaries, it is on record that the payments of monthly pensions which had earlier ceased resumed when Governor Samuel Ortom took over the mantle of leadership. So far, One Hundred and Fifty-two Million and Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N152,500,000.00) only has been released and distributed as gratuities since October, 2016. Staff promotions The office of the Head of Service has been able to work for the promotion of two hundred and eighty-six (286) staff and conducted promotion examinations for about two thousand staff at different levels. Government approved and released money for promotion interview which was cheaper and more effective than written examinations. With this development, the backlog of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 pending cases are being processed and the result will be forwarded to the Civil Service Commission as soon as possible. Housing Scheme The Owner-Occupier Housing Scheme for civil servants is also receiving the full support of government. In continuation of the Owner-Occupier Housing Scheme project, my office has built ten new housing units to be allocated to civil servants, constructed streets, electrified and installed a 500KVA transformer at the Owner-Occupier Housing Estate Phase II. Manpower Development and Training Manpower development and training has also experienced a boost. One thousand, four hundred and ninety-two (1,492) staff participated in the Professional Officers’ Induction Courses as well as the local government induction courses in 2015 and 2016. Challenges While commending the Executive Governor for the successes achieved, I wish to encourage His Excellency to look into some of the challenges of the Office of Head of Service and by extension, the Benue State Civil Service which include the following:
  • Irregular/non-remittance of funds which are deductions from salaries of civil servants for the Owner-Occupier Housing Project by the Ministry of Finance, which has slowed down the pace of work (construction of houses for civil servants).
  • Encroachment on the Owner-Occupier Housing Scheme Estate Land by land speculators.
  • The Staff Development Center which earlier lost its premises to the Entrepreneurship Center is now being temporarily accommodated at the renovated premises of the defunct Lobi Bank while work in on-going at its permanent site opposite the former location. It will be appreciated if work is expedited on the permanent site for the commencement of full training activities.
  • Provision of funds for the screening of pensioners which is usually done every two years. The last exercise was conducted in August, 2015.
  • Updating of staff salaries and retirees’ pensions and gratuity (including death gratuity).
  • Non release of fund for diesel (for the secretariat’s main generator) so that work is frequently disrupted with the constant failure of public power supply.
  • Provision of utility vehicles or the bureau of the Office of the Head of Service, etc.
Conclusion In conclusion, I wish to call on all Benue Civil Servants to look beyond the difficulties occasioned by the general economic recession and see the tiny ray of light (or hope) at the end of the tunnel. I therefore, enjoin them to work in harmony and solidly behind Governor Samuel Ortom so as to achieve the well-articulated goals and objectives of his administration for posterity. Thank you all.