ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State government on Friday indicated its readiness to pay severance allowances to the current crop of serving local government chairmen and councilors in the state, whose tenure of office is expected to end in August this year.
The Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, disclosed this during a courtesy call by the chairman, commissioners and the permanent secretary of the Local Government Service Commission in Government House, Yenagoa.
Ewhrudjakpo said this was the first time in the history of local government administration in the state when elected chairmen and councillors would receive their full severance entitlements upon the completion of their three-year term in office.
He noted that as part of the oversight functions over the councils, the state government had through his office, assisted the eight local government councils since inception to save funds to ensure a seamless payment of the severance allowances.
According to him, none of the eight councils would hand-over with a deficit balance, due to the financial prudence template introduced by the administration to manage the funds of the councils.
He said: “The decisions we took, especially with regards to financial prudence of the local government councils, for which we were initially vilified and crucified are now yielding fruits. Today, we are being canonized that we have done the right thing.
“Right now, we are settling severance for the first time, and no local government is going with a deficit.
“In fact, Southern Ijaw Local Government, for example, has over N200 million in their savings; while Yenagoa has over N100 million in savings to hand over.
Kolokuma/Opokuma has about N70 million. All the local governments have some money in their savings to hand over.
“So instead of inheriting deficits, the next administration that is coming into the local governments will inherit funds to begin with. And for the first time, the state government is going to the various local government areas to start commissioning projects completed by the local governments.”
He assured that government would start commissioning all successfully completed infrastructural projects undertaken by the various councils across communities in the state.
Responding to some of the issues raised by the LGSC Chairman, Ewhrudjakpo said it was quite imperative for the Commission to carry out general inter-local government senior staff transfers to improve the unified local government service.
The Bayelsa number two man, who congratulated the Commission for successfully carrying out the recent senior staff promotion exercise, urged them to take appropriate measures to stem the high level of absenteeism from work among staff in the local government councils.
He charged them to carry out special periodic programmes at the local government level, which are aimed at training staff on the right work ethics, financial management and procurement in the public service.
On their request for official vehicles for the chairman and commissioners of the LGSC, as well as approval for a retreat, the Deputy Governor assured them that he would furnish the Governor as soon they send in their written proposal and budget.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the state Local Government Service Commission, Chief Lambert Ototo, explained that the visit was to principally inform the Deputy Governor of their achievements and needs, including official vehicles and the approval of a five-day retreat.
Chief Ototo, who thanked the Governor Diri-led Administration for non-interference in the smooth running of the Commission, however appealed to the government to carry out repairs on their office and parking lot at the old secretariat, which suffers flooding in every downpour.