*Friday Iwok (2nd left) addressing the state AG, Andrew-Essien (2nd right), lawmakers & others at the Ikot Ekpene Sub Treasury yesterday
Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Public Accounts, Friday Iwok, has expressed optimism that Governor Udom Emmanuel will make funds available for payment of gratuities to retired civil servants beginning from 2016 to date.
Iwok said this yesterday while reacting to a complaint brought before his committee by the state Accountant General, Mr. Uwem Andrew-Essien, who told lawmakers that his office has payment of gratuities to retired civil servants as its challenge.
The lawmakers had visited the office of the Accountant General to look at the state of treasuries in Akwa Ibom and the functionality of the state’s treasury departments as part of oversight functions of the house of assembly.
According to Iwok, Governor Udom Emmanuel loves the Akwa Ibom people and is capable of paying backlog of gratuities owed retirees.
He said, “I thank the state government for paying gratuities up to 2015, and I’m sure the governor who is appreciative of the civil servants in Akwa Ibom State will make funds available for the 2016 retirees.
“I know he loves the Akwa Ibom people and he is capable of paying. That was the reason he didn’t take the bailout funds from the federal government as other states did, and that is why we are not suffering in our state”.
Mr Iwok congratulated Governor Emmanuel on the third anniversary of his stay in office as was celebrated during the 2018 Democracy Day anniversary held on may 29, as well as commended him for prompt payment of salaries.
“I have followed him (Governor Udom Emmanuel) strictly and I have seen the enormous projects he has gone round to inaugurate, many of them life-touching projects.
“When you look at the fertiliser blending plant at Abak, producing various varieties of fertilisers for people, that of cassava and palm fruits, I think it will go a long way to promote the economy of the state”, he said.
He thanked members of his committee for their commitment as it affected the audited financial account of the state government for 2016, the record which was published recently.
“We put our heads together and that of 2015 account was published. The state account of 2016 has been published. This shows accountability, transparency and commitment to duty in Akwa Ibom State.
“As soon as we receive the 2017 audited account of government, we will not hesitate to expedite action in making sure that it is scrutinised and passed in the legislature”.
Mr Iwok also frowned at the non-compliance with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) by the local government areas in the state, despite the fact that members of staff have been trained on it.
Stating that the benefits of compliance are long lasting, Iwok warned that the risks associated with non-compliance could jeopardise the state’s public financial and accounting systems, particularly in terms of transparency in public transactions.
“If the state government is using it, I don’t see why the local governments are not using it. From 2010 up till now, the accounts of the local government areas have not been audited, they are there.
“The House of Assembly has not been able to pass it, and this not good for the state government. We view it as a serious neglect on the part of local government councils.
“If the state government has seen the need to audit the state’s account, I don’t see why local governments should not follow same.
“The report of 2016 account of the state has been published, they (state government) are now working on 2017. So, by implication, the local government areas are not interested”, he said.
Iwok who was obviously not impressed by the settings he and members of his committee met at the sub treasuries in Abak and Ikot Ekpene local government areas asked the the state Accountant General to mandate inspectors to supervise activities in the sub treasuries on regular basis.
Earlier, the state Accountant General, Uwem Andrew-Essien, while presenting the state government’s audited account for 2016 told the lawmakers that his office had been ensuring that salaries are paid to civil servants before the 30th of every month, including payment pensions.
Mr Andrew-Essien contended that when members of the public hear pensioners complain of non payment, then it would mean that such complaints may be because of arrears of gratuity, as his office has a responsibility of ensuring payment of pensions the same day staff salaries are paid.
He said “Gratuity for primary school teachers is with SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board). For us, we’ve paid up to November 2015.
“By the grace of God, I’m sure His Excellency (Governor Udom Emmanuel) will approve money for us to clear the 2015 gratuity and enter 2016. As revenue improves, His Excellency will make funds available for us to handle gratuities”.
He said his office had revived the car loan facility for workers, while those who would not benefit from it have the workers short-term loan advances to fall back to.
The AG said beneficiaries of the loans are required to pay back within 12 calendar months through deductions from their salaries, adding that are comfortable with the programme and that his office is doing its best to make them happy and productive.