By Mosunmola Ayobami, Kwara
The backlog of arrears of local government staff (unpaid) gratuities from 2009 in Kwara State is in the excess of N21billion, Executive Secretary Kwara State Local Government Staff Pension Board, Smaila Oyelowo has disclosed.
“The present administration inherited N21,516,812,33 as the backlog of gratuities from 2009,” Oyelowo disclosed on Monday while testifying before the Retired Justice Mathew Adewara-led panel of inquiry into the alleged diversion of N300million monthly from local government funds in Kwara State.
Oyelowo said the N30million monthly release for gratuities before May 2019 has been increased to N100million monthly to gradually defray part of the outstanding debts.
“We approached the (new) state government to jerk up money being released for the payment of gratuities and (that) was expressly granted.
“Now, on a monthly basis, we are receiving N100million to settle gratuities. But because of COVID-19 pandemic, we got N60million in June.
“In July, this has been raised to N100million again,” he told the panel, saying the board was unaware of any deduction of their money.
“We only prepare vouchers for the payment of pension for the consultant engaged for its payments while we concentrate on the issues of gratuities.
“The board does the collection of (details of) new pensioners, upgrades the payroll, and forwards to the consultant for payment.”
The Executive Secretary advocated the adoption of a contributory pension scheme as a solution to the issue of the backlog.
For their parts, Directors of Personnel Management from the five local government areas (Kwara North) testified before the Retired Justice Adewara-led panel and described the alleged diversion of N300million monthly from local government funds as baseless and unfounded.
Tsaduko Muhammad (Baruten), Adeyemi Oyewole (Edu), Hussein Saidu (Kaiama), Adefalu Akande (Patigi), Amuda Musbau (Moro), and some bank managers testified before the panel on Monday.
The panel interrogated the witnesses in respect of payrolls, bank accounts, bank statements, statutory allocation papers, schedules of local government internally generated revenues, and cash books.
Chairman of the panel Justice Mathew Adewara reiterated that the panel was on a fact-finding mission to ascertain the allegations of diversion of local government funds in Kwara State, saying it is not putting anyone on trial.
“As you are aware, this panel was set up by the Governor of Kwara State AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and the mandate is to examine all the relevant books (internally generated revenue, federation allocation and how those funds are being used,” he said.
“This panel is to probe and find the veracity of the claim that N300million was being diverted by the Kwara State government from the local government funds. Nobody is on trial. Nobody is being prosecuted. We are only on a fact-finding mission. We are to find out the correctness of your books” he added.