The Imo State Government yesterday faulted the claim by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that it misapplied the bailout funds collected from the Federal Government for the payment of workers’ salary arrears.
The government said the bailout fund was judiciously applied for the purpose it was meant.
ICPC, in a statement by Mustapha Hussain, on behalf of the agency’s Commissioner for Public Enlightenment, accused Imo, Benue and Enugu states of misapplying their bailout funds.
But a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Rochas Okorocha, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, said: “The commission did not, however, disclose how it arrived at that conclusion but only stated that some transfers were made into certain accounts not related to salaries and emoluments including, ‘N2 billion paid into a Government Account; N2 billion paid into an Imo State Project Account and N2 billion transferred into a Microfinance Bank’.”
The statement added: “The ICPC was right that such funds were paid into the mentioned accounts and we had expected the commission to go further to tell the public what such funds paid into those accounts were used for. The commission became stingy with facts at that point.
“Again, before the bailout fund, were there no existing accounts the government was using to pay salaries? While giving out the bailout funds, was there any specified account that was given that the salaries must be paid from? These are questions that needed to be answered since the commission never claimed that the money was paid into private accounts or that the ones paid into the government’s accounts were used for other reasons except paying salaries.
“From the mentioned government’s account, personnel of Imo Security Network, Imo Community Watch, Youth Must Work Teachers, Community Government Councils and Imo Civil Guards were paid their arrears last December. We stand to be contradicted on this claim.
“From the referenced Microfinance Bank Account, Imo State University, Imo Polytechnic, Imo College of Nursing and Health Sciences Staff, and so on, collected their salaries, also in arrears last December. We also want the ICPC to prove us wrong on this claim.
“In the case of Imo State Project Account, the truth is that the government was drawing money from the account to ensure full payment of workers’ salaries when the financial fortunes of the state began to dwindle, like most other states’. So, when the bailout fund finally came, the government had no option than to pay back the fund it had borrowed from that account.
“And the truth of the matter became glaring when Labour in the state decided to be collecting 70 per cent of the total income of the state at the end of every month for salaries and pensions, leaving only 30 per cent for government, for capital projects; since January, they have not been able to pay workers full salary.
“Last December, the state government paid all arrears of workers’ salaries, including workers of corporations, agencies and health outfits the government had issues to settle with and also paid pensions, which were not part of the bailout fund. We want to be faulted on all these claims.
“When the national leadership of NLC led a protest in the state, it was not on the issue of salary but over the suspension of certain workers of corporations and agencies who remained unproductive over the years. And it was the 70 per cent to 30 per cent revenue sharing formula between the government and Labour that ended the misunderstanding, and the affected personnel were recalled.
“As we write, the payment of the February salary has begun. Which means the state is only owing the workers the March salary, since April has not ended. Let us be proved wrong in all these. Imo State has a bloated workforce and the highest number of pensioners. Yet, it is only owing the workers the March salary since the payment for February has begun. So, in what way did the state divert or misapply the bailout fund?
“The Imo State Government has unbridled regard and respect for agencies like ICPC because of the great service they have been rendering to this nation. Otherwise, we would have concluded that something was wrong somewhere.
“To say the least, the Imo State Government applied the bailout fund judiciously for the purpose it was meant: the payment of salaries. We did that and also paid pensions, which were not part of the bailout fund. We stand to be contradicted. That is why the issue of salary arrears does not exist in the state at the moment.”