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Benue Finance Commissioner apologises for shortfalls in workers’ salaries



Benue Finance Commissioner apologises for shortfalls in workers’ salaries

Mr David Olofu, Benue Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning has apologised to workers in the state for the shortfalls witnessed in the payment of their January salaries.

Olofu made the apology, while speaking with our correspondent on Thursday in Makurdi.

He, however, explained that the decision to engage Systemspecs, the consultancy firm that provided the platform for the salary payment, was to enable the state clean up its payroll of fraud.

“It is painful to me as commissioner for Finance to start something that I think will bring relief to us as a state.

“To me, it is important to look at what we have as against the solution we are presenting and to also look at the agreement and see if there is any shady deal. Systemspecs did not come from heaven, they have been recommended,’’ he said.

He said that the Federal Government was presently using its platform, Remitta for the payment of its workers salaries.

Olofu insisted that the payment of salaries needed a platform regardless of whether the payroll was prepared by civil servants or not.

“We must always use a platform for the payment of workers’ salaries, before this time, we were using the U-pay platform from UBA.

“When we came in, we discovered that salaries were paid through the UBA platform but the system had many problems, which included duplication of names and we wanted to find out where the problems were coming from.

“We agreed in the ministry to do a trial with Zenith bank to see if the challenges were as a result of normal banking problems or were caused by civil servants, that trial exposed a lot of issues including duplication of names on the payroll.’’

He admitted that they were people that were benefitting from the old payment platform.

The commissioner explained that Systemspecs was engaged to assist the state clean up its payroll to enable it meet up with the expectations of the Fiscal Accessibility Plan (FAP) of the Federal Government before it qualifies for budget support fund.

He said since the state was a signatory to the 22-point agenda of the plan, they needed the expertise of Systemspecs to carry out the other requirements including having a cleaned payroll, payment of VAT, Withholding Tax and Stamp Duty.

“Already, we were backward in implementing these goals, with lean resources and a query from the Federal Ministry of Finance, we decided to engage Systemspecs to help clean up the payroll and implement the other aspects of the plan.

“We are not paying them anything for using their platform to pay salaries, only the normal banking services, the other aspects of the services are going on well except salary payment.’’

He said that though the issue of engaging Systemspecs was not discussed during the Benue EXCO meeting, the decision to engage them was within his jurisdiction and exercised in good faith.

“Of course the Deputy Governor said the state is not aware of the contract with Systemspecs, but I am working for the Deputy Governor, the Governor and Benue State, so if I have taken a step that I consider appropriate to address a challenge in Benue State and my bosses say they are not aware then it means they are not aware.

“But I think that as a public servant and commissioner for finance, I should be able to take certain decisions that are in the best interest of the state, so, I take responsibility for bringing them (Systemspecs) because I believed they would provide a solution to our problem.’’

He, however, disclosed that in 2016, the then acting Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Dr Bem Meladu had issued a directive to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to switch over to Systemspecs to enable the state deal with payroll fraud.

He assured that the shortfalls in salaries was being addressed, and added that the money was intact at UBA.

Recall that following the massive complaints from civil servants in the state over discrepancies in salaries, the state legislature summoned Sysremspecs to explain the shortfalls.

In its explanations, they had claimed that they only made use of data provided to it by the Finance Ministry but while testifying before the lawmakers, the state Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu said the government never engaged the company.

It was reported that the matter is still being investigated by the government.


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