The Imo state government on Thursday paid no fewer than 24, 000 pensioners had received two months pensions.
The development erupted jubilation in the state, this even as the governor, Emeka Ihedioha, in his maiden broadcast to the people of the state, said that there was huge fraud in the payment of pensions in the state.
Ihedioha in the broadcast said that the State government would be parting with N1, 218,175,387 for both State and Local government pensioners, monthly.
He revealed that his administration inherited six years pension arrears and discovered inexplicable discrepancies in the total number of pensioners in both the State and 27 local government areas.
The governor said, “I would like to appeal to all our citizens that the challenge of payment of a pensions bills standing over N1.2 billion monthly is very enormous. This calls for sacrifices by all citizens.
“We are confronted with the necessity to source for the revenue to ensure a good life for our senior citizens”.
Ihedioha recalled that on assumption of office, his administration embarked on a wide range of reforms geared towards achieving effective service delivery, ensuring value for money and entrenching transparency in governance, cumulative factors which led to the set up of an investigative committee to look into the process of pensioners in the State which was riddled with intractable problems and corruption.
He said, “One of such frameworks was the Imo State Pension Board and its corresponding pension management system which was afflicted with intractable problems and riddled with corruption. Sadly, we inherited six years of pension arrears and discovered inexplicable discrepancies in the total number of pensioners in both the State and the Twenty-Seven (27) Local Governments. We received complaints on various forms of irregularities in the scheme from various pension beneficiaries and stakeholders”.
“When we made to resolve the contending issues, we were confronted with conflicting information from various offices in charge of pension administration. Consequently, we could not ascertain the proper position of monthly pension liabilities in the state” .
“As you all are aware, it has been my declared commitment to ensure that our senior citizens retire in joyful hope, live in dignity and extended the courtesy they deserve. Accordingly, we set up an investigative committee to carry out a comprehensive audit of the pension administration system in the State. The main objectives of this action was to ascertain the actual number of pensioners in Imo State and to end the corruption and perennial cycle of verifications that have plagued the process over the years.
“The terms of reference of the Committee were, among other things:
a. To determine all outstanding pension liabilities in both the state and local governments;
b. To advise on the need for the establishment of an electronic database and digitization of the pension process in the state, and;
c. To provide the government with guidance on the desirability of transiting to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) which have been established at the federal level as well as various states of the federation”
“My good people of Imo State, I am pleased to inform you that the Committee has finished their work and on record time too. The State Executive Council has studied the report and the outcome satisfactorily deliberated upon and duly adopted. Their report, undeniably, confirmed our fears.
“Some of the challenges were a dearth of information due to the absence of a reliable database as well as irregular payments arising from flawed data. Most times, the data were hastily cobbled up from a plethora of committees and subsequently, carried conflicting information. As a result, the integrity of the available data was grossly compromised.
“There is also the issue of a failed attempt to establish an electronic database for pensioners through various consultants after so much financial commitment.
“Pursuant to their mandate, the Committee undertook the extraction and analysis of 48,481 records comprising 28,658 from the Office of the Head of Service (OHOS) of the State and 19,823 from the Local Government Pension Board. After it had processed the records, the Committee finally verified 24,431 pensioners. These were, subsequently, consolidated in a central server for the validation phase”
“It is very instructive that out of an initial monthly bill of N1, 499,157,895.00 being accrual for 33,541 state and LGA pensioners, presented to the state government as at May 2019, the amount has been trimmed down to N1, 218,175,387 for 24,992 pensioners. This entails a savings of N280, 982,508.00 or 18.7 percent per month. Consequently, a total of 8,549 or 25percent, of ghost pensioners in all were filtered out. This represents the amount of state resources that would have gone into the drains without the necessary due diligence.
“These involved cases of duplication and over payments engendered by wrong parameters, calculation errors or deliberate falsifications. There were instances in which Level 6 officers were earning pensions for Level 16. Unfortunately, while the pensioners received pensions due them as retired Level 6 officers, the balance of the funds could not be accounted for.
“To carry through necessary processes, we have set up machinery for the quick commencement of payments. We are working with the banks to ensure prompt transmission of payments to the various pensioners. It would gladden you to know that the process also includes those who recently retired. Yes, indeed, as the months roll by, more people are hopping unto the retirement train. We are leveraging the Bank Verification Number (BVN) system as well as online real-time payment technology. This is to ensure that beneficiaries are easily authenticated and would get their payments at the click of the button, directly and not through proxies or surrogates”.