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The Cross River State Government says it inherited one thousand eight hundred and forty (1, 840) court cases from the previous administration in the state.
Governor Ben Ayade disclosed this on Tuesday while swearing in the New Head of Service (HOS) Geraldine Ekanem.
He said the cases will require the state hiring lawyers to help represent the state.
“We have over 1, 840 court cases inherited that warrants the state hiring lawyers, we are paying just so much so I need a Head of Service who will provide me sufficient capacity”, the governor said.
The governor lamented that the Directors of Personnel who have the responsibility of giving monthly personnel audits failed to do so.
”If I walk into the ministries, I meet a fairly empty ministry but if I come to the nominal roll, I will see a massive wage bill”.
“Each time I attempt to do an audit and reduce the payroll by about 60 million, for example, petitions will come in that I was sick and by the time all of them come back, the 60 million that was reduced will become 70 million.
“So for every audit, we end up having more names on the payroll”, the Governor regretted, noting that the monthly pension in the state has increased by 400 million from the time he assumed office. Gov Ayade said that it is expected that when pensions increase, salaries should reduce but with the increase in wage bill and pensions, it really calls for a thorough investigation.
The governor tasked the HoS to do her best and fish out fake workers in the civil service, lamenting that the level of manipulation and fraud in the service is high, which was the reason he needed a Head of Service who could address this challenge.
“At this time of the state’s economy when the revenue allocation for Cross River has nosedived, I don’t envy your job. The total allocation for the state last month put together was in the region of 900 million and it came at a time our wage bill is about 3.16 billion. And for those who don’t know we have been able to sustain salaries up to date and so as HoS one of the greatest challenges before you is to fish out fugitive workers.
“By virtue of your decent family and experience, please employ that to put into check the level of manipulation of our payroll system. You have my support in transfers, demotions and whatever power is vested in me is passed to you so nobody will come back to say he is witch haunted.
“The fraud in the payroll system is huge. Today we have a major case of about 16 billion and as we are struggling to survive we have another of about 6.5 million dollars with ECOWAS.
Responding, the new Head of Service thanked the governor for believing in her and pledged to leave a positive mark in the service to the best of her abilities.
Earlier the Secretary to the state government, Tina Banko Agbor said the swearing-in of the HoS is in line with the provision of the constitution. She said the governor’s appointment of women into key positions demonstrates his commitment to gender equity.
Geraldine Ekanem hails from Ikom and takes over from Chris Ita who retired last year. She was called to the Nigeria Bar Association in 1985 and joined the service in 1987.