Cross River State governor, Sir Ben Ayade, has sworn in a new Head of Service, Mrs. Geraldine Akpet-Ekanem, with a charge to flush out ghost workers from the system.
Reflecting on the significance of the event, Ayade while performing the swearing in, noted that “today is the special day because the head of administration of the government and bearaucracy of Cross River State is being made substantive and she is no other person but a very disciplined, highly professional lady, who from her citation has distinguished herself and has been an outstanding example of what a decent woman should be.”
Governor Ayade charged Akpet-Ekanem to hit the ground running, reminding her that “as head of service, one of the greatest challenges before you is to fish out ghost workers.”
Disclosing the staggering figure he inherited as pension, amounting to about N340 million per month, the governor said “today that figure stands at about N740 million per month. I do not understand that increment of over N400 million especially when you juxtapose it with the fact that I met a civil service wage bill of about N1.2 billion rising to N1.6 billion and now standing at about N2.1 billion.
According to Ayade, “It is expected that when pension is increasing, salary is supposed to be reducing. But to have an increase in the wage bill in terms of salaries, increase in pension, while the employment regime just accounts for less than N 200 million is difficult to understand. It really calls for a thorough investigation.
“So I implore you to use your professional and educational background as a trained lawyer, your-self discipline from the heritage of a decent family and check the level of manipulation of our payroll system.”
Continuing, Ayade told Akpet-Ekanem that “as head of service, you have a very big challenge. Imprests are not being retired by ministries, simple imprests and it’s a hell of a task for them to retire it and qualify for the next month.
“Personnel audit which is supposed to be a quarterly thing is not being done. What they rather do is every month, payment structure of November is transferred into December.”
The governor promised the new HoS of his support, adding that “you have my support to discipline, you have my support to transfer and promotions. Whatever power is vested in me, I pass that power to you so that nobody will come back and say either the governor or the head of service is witch hunting him or her. I have set your terms of reference very clear.”
On discipline, “as head of service, the punctuality of staff has become a big challenge including commissioners. I know your responsibility as Head of Service is to civil servants but your permanent secretaries and your directors come under you. If they come to work punctually and at the right time, the commissioners will sit up. I want to encourage you to remain very disciplined .”
On the choice of Akpet-Ekanem, Ayade said: “The discretion to choose a head of service lies solely with the governor and your emergence had many reasons, one of which was that a memo was originated to the former head of service to give me the list based on seniority and your name came first. I then asked for your personal profile, whether you have had queries, whether you have had disciplinary issues, whether you have had any issues with questions on your character, integrity and it was all absolutely perfect. You came clean and I had no option than to make a choice of you based on character, your capabilities and your experience. So your choice was not emotional. It was based on your capacity to deliver on the charge I am giving you today.”
Speaking shortly after her swearing in, the new Head of Service thanked the governor for the appointment, adding that “His Excellency is a gender friendly governor for believing in me. He is indeed a leader of conscience and a man with a good heart. Your Excellency, I have heard your charge, I pledge to do all within my capacity to leave a positive mark in the civil service of Cross River State.”