Key government officials of Abia state, including commissioners and permanent secretaries, are stashing away billions of naira of state funds in illegal accounts, the governor, Theodore Orji, said Monday in a brazen remark that sought to excuse the administration’s drab performance.
Mr. Orji said billions of internally generated revenues were being squandered monthly through official fraud, leaving the state to depend fully on monthly federal allocations.
Much of the federal receipts are used to clear salaries with relatively less for developmental projects. In June for instance, the state spent N2.5 billion on wages out of its federal allocation of N3.4 billion, the governor said.
The governor said the health, education, roads and infrastructure development would suffer if nothing drastic was done to shore up the state’s revenue base.
“I am not here to pay salaries alone,’’ he said.
Mr. Orji met with the commissioners, permanent secretaries and heads of extra-ministerial offices in the state capital, Umuahia, on Monday, and warned that all illegal accounts be closed immediately, threatening to fire and prosecute defaulters.
“As you leave this place, you should close all the revenue accounts in your ministries where you keep your revenue and disburse without government’s knowledge,” he directed.
“All the revenues generated by your ministries must be paid into the consolidated revenue account that is what the law says.”
The governor said the government functionaries had fronted assorted revenue collection agents and consultancies through which the monies are siphoned.
“We have instances where officers collect money and pocket it. “I am not going to take it lightly this time around; it will be tit-for-tat. If any commissioner keeps any account in the ministry, I will arrest him and lock him up along with his permanent secretary,” he said.
“I will sack him and then hand him over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”
The south east state, which receives oil derivation, has been under criticisms as amongst some of the least performing states with its renowned commercial city of Aba in filth and just a part of the capital, Umuahia, receiving a face-lift.
The governor said a particular commissioner floated a revenue collecting company, through which he was pocketing money that ought to go into government’s coffers.
He recalled that Aba generated the revenue that ran the defunct Imo State, stressing that the city still had the potential to sustain Abia.
“The openings for revenue generation are still there in Aba but we are not harnessing them because of sabotage and personal aggrandizement,” he said.
The governor said only one revenue consultant was approved by the state government for revenue collection in the state, saying that any other consultant or revenue collector was illegal.
“If I get any person parading himself as a revenue agent or consultant, I will set example with that person,’’ he said.
Mr. Orji specifically took a swipe at the commissioners for Lands, Commerce and Industry, Environment and Agriculture for failing in their duties.
“As my appointees, you have to do my bidding and if there is any arrangement you have in the ministry on how you generate revenue, go now and cancel it,” he said.
“You have to do what I want you to do, otherwise, you should find your way out or I will show you the way out,’’ he said.
Agents of the Abia State Environmental Sanitation Agency, he said, harassed traders and residents of Umuahia and Aba and raked in huge revenues running into hundreds of millions of naira, with only a pittance being remitted to government’s coffers.
The governor also spoke of the “rot” in the state’s Local Government system, alleging that many people were collecting salaries without doing any job.
He said that during a recent assessment of the Local Government workforce, using the bio-metric data machine, it was discovered that N80 million was paid to ghost workers monthly.
The governor said there were more teachers in the state than required and warned that he might begin a systematic downsizing of the workforce to rid the service of redundant workers.