Monday, 10 June 2024.

Top 5 This Week

Related News

World Bank sanctions loom as CRSG withdraws financial entitlements of Office of the Auditor-General

By Our Reporter

Out of wrong brief or sheer misrepresentation of facts, the Governor of our dear State has been hoodwinked into approving a massive downward review of the salaries of staff of the office of the State Auditor-General and their counterpart in the Local Government.

Just when they thought that they were being finally rewarded with well-deserved financial entitlements for their labours in boosting the States’ financial profiles through plugging loopholes in government revenue sources and publishing transparent State consolidated accounts, to the admiration of the Apex Financial Global body – the World Bank, their bubbles have been busted following this massive downward review of their statutory monthly pay directed by the State Government.

This move of the State Government is not sitting well with the staff of both establishments who have been expressing their displeasure, albeit in muffled tones describing it as a let-down, a betrayal of trust and reneging on agreements with the World Bank.

Foreground

It would be recalled that the World Bank through the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) has awarded a grant of $24 Million to the State for championing a robust and transparent accounting and auditing system from a number of factors like Enacting an audit law, preparation and publication of a timely and transparent account of the State, passing and publishing of the State Budget as well as transparency in the process of Internally Generated Revenue generation.

The SIFTAS grants to the State were one of the testaments of a bold, ambitious and impressive task of the office of the Auditor-General in producing and certifying a credible and transparent financial document as part of their avowed determination and commitment to sustaining a veritable plank that would amongst other things place the State on a sound financial footing while striving to build a dynamic economy in the face of complex financial challenges.

The task was an onerous and daring enterprise but not an unsurmountable one which paid off with huge rewards and underscored some exciting prospects; for instance, it strengthened convictions in reward for credibility and transparency in government financial transactions, It also challenged Government Revenue Sources in the State to strive to come clean in their fiscal dealings in order to boost confidence in their financial records thereby forestalling avoidable conflicts with the law and the anti-grafts agencies. Most importantly, it promoted transparency and proper funds utilisation which is key in government’s implementation plans and policies with a view to up-scaling investments in critical sectors of the economy.

These were brazen investments made by the office of the Auditor-General in collaboration with other relevant agencies to ensure that Cross River State attains credible financial profiles in order to stand great chances of benefitting from foreign incentives through well-orchestrated strategies crucial in global confidence building.

READ ALSO:

In light of these, Cross River State became a beacon of financial probity in the eyes of Global Financial watchdogs and was given a pat on the back for leading the way in ensuring transparency in governance and openness in financial dealings.

In order to encourage and sustain these strides, some far-reaching conditions were proposed by the World Bank to further boost the chances of the State winning the SFTAS grants in the face of other contending challengers. Such conditions included the establishment of an Audit Law in the State, the provision of better remuneration and entitlements for the Auditor-General and staff (both State and Local Government), and the establishment of an Audit Service Commission among others. These conditions which were geared towards ensuring autonomy for the offices of the Auditor-General, were also part of efforts initiated to protect the auditor–general and his staff from acts of vindictiveness from Government quarters that may be aggrieved by actions taken by the Auditors in the course of discharging their legitimate duties.

It was the wisdom of the Apex Bank that the Auditor General of the State and his Local Government counterpart and their staff be well remunerated in order not to be compromised.

Due Process was followed through the House of Assembly to meet these conditions and a special Salary Structure (AUDSS) was approved by the former Governor Ben Ayade in February 2022. These agreements demonstrate the apex bank’s belief in a robust Audit system as a catalyst for financial probity and economic growth.

These amongst others were part of what inspired the award of the SFTAS grant to the State.

The remuneration as a windfall from this agreement brought elation and renewed enthusiasm amongst the staff who believed that the recognition of their efforts would be a moral compass to rewarding hard work and recognising equity, justice and fairness. But alas! Their hopes were smashed when they got their March 2024 Salary and discovered that their salary had been greatly mutilated.

The Matter

This pay cut which took immediate effect without recourse to laid down procedures may not be unconnected according to analysts from the hue and cry in some quarters by comments made by the triumvirate of Mr Uko Inaku the former Chairman, Cross River State Civil Service Commission; Mr Ogban Akwaji, the Former Head of the Civil Service, and Mr Joseph Adie, the Former Accountant-General of the State in an interview granted at a private radio station in Calabar in March 2024 following a backlash also from an interview granted by the immediate past Auditor-General of the State, Comrade John Odey – at the same radio station where he accused the trio of being responsible for the continuous rise in the State Pay-roll and its attendant financial implications for the government.

Part of the grouse from the troika was the sumptuous financial packages and allowances relished by the State and Local Government Auditors-Generals and members of staff. They reasoned that the former Auditor-General arm- twisted the then Governor, Sen. Professor Ben Ayade to signing special packages for the Auditors-Generals and members of staff without recourse to other sections of the State Service.

The slash in the financial entitlements of the Auditor-General and members of staff is causing growing disquiet in their ranks and accusations and counter-accusations are rife. While some are holding the newly inaugurated Audit Service Commission liable for their predicament, some are livid that Management is not doing enough to reverse the trend and it is having a telling effect on their well-being and that of their families.

They are questioning the suddenness of slashing their salaries, lamenting that it has thrown them off-balance as some of them are on loan facilities and can barely cope with what is left of their take-home pay.

While this lingers, Some are not ruling out reasons that are far-fetched. Some are deducing the fact that they are no longer enjoying the munificence because the SFTAS grant has expired which has been corroborated by some sources who preferred to remain anonymous. Another source who pleaded anonymity is of the opinion that “efforts to weaken the independence of the audit institutions could be responsible and must have contributed to the slash of auditors’ salary, which may attract severe consequences to the state in the long run”.

Whatever the reasons are for the slice of their juicy pies, some basic things must be considered and taken into consideration. No rational worker or group of workers- talk less Auditors would unilaterally make far-reaching financial decisions with enormous implications without recourse to due process especially in a democratic dispensation. If the entitlements under contention were fallout from an agreement between the State Government and the Apex Global body like the World Bank and endorsed by a former Executive Governor, then the present administration has the moral burden to toe the line of honour in restoring the entitlements due these cadres of workers in order not to lose its credibility in the eyes of global institutions.

This call is germane as government yielding is not an act of spinelessness but rather a show of maturity in the face of common sensibilities; it will also evoke a positive perception in peoples’ buds as it will be adding the “sweetness” savour being propagated across every sector, especially to those who are deserving of it.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
We are a team of experienced journalists, bloggers, writers, columnists, and content creators. We are first to breaking news, top stories and insights.

Latest News