Cross River State government has expressed its resolve to sanitize the payroll of the state workforce currently blighted by several infractions.

The state’s Head of Service (HoS), Dr Innocent Eteng conveyed the government’s position, Monday evening, during a press briefing with journalists in Calabar.

The state’s payroll has, in recent weeks, become a subject of public discourse, where the state workforce has skyrocketed from a little above 18,000 (at the end of former Governor Liyel Imoke’s administration in 2015) to a staggering 56,358 as at May 29, 2023, leaving an over-bloated wage bill for the Governor Bassey Otu-led administration to deal with.

A further breakdown of the 56,358 workforce by the HoS, revealed that the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has 14,328 staff, Primary Health Care Development Agency – 2,812, State Civil Service – 22,526, Pensioners – 19,701, Local Government Service – 4,131, and Traditional Rulers Council – 2,860.

Dr Eteng, who stated that Governor Otu has religiously kept his promise of prompt payment of salaries and done so up-to-date, except for a few civil servants whose names could not be reconciled on the nominal roll and payroll, however, notified Cross Riverians that there is an ongoing strategic clean-up of the State Payroll, driven by his office and the Accountant General to rid the system of any ambiguities.

The HoS appealed for support and understanding of all for Governor Otu honest efforts to clean up the payroll so as to give room for new employment. He cited the instance of school teachers, saying, “If you go to schools you will see that we need teachers in schools, but in the payroll, we have more than enough teachers. This is the situation we are addressing.”

He pointed out that anyone still owed salary may be as a result of irregularities in their record, and such person must endeavour to do the right thing, and present his or her case before the office of the Head of Service.

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The state HoS revealed that there was a standing order from the Governor for Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Administration in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to submit nominal rolls of all staff to the offices of the HoS and Accountant General, respectively, before salaries could be paid.

He intimated that about nine MDAs only would be paid salaries in March, out of 32 because they were the only ones that submitted their payroll as demanded.

In clear terms, he advised that MDAs not paid the workers should hold their Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Administration accountable for circumventing government directives.

He explained the tripod arrangement where workers information are forwarded by the office of the Head of Service to the Auditor General’s office for scrutiny, then to the Accountant General’s office for further necessary action before salaries are paid must be followed religiously to check irregularities, saying, “We have a responsibility as a people to help the state by ensuring that those who are not in the nominal roll should not be paid salaries.”

On the alleged racketeering and double standards permeating promotions of civil servants, Dr Eteng warned that promotions which run foul to civil service rules and other extant statutes would not be entertained.

“Promotions are to be given to deserving civil servants in line with the rules and extant guidelines. No civil servant should pay money for promotion. If caught, both the payer and receiver would face the consequences accordingly,” he warned.

The HoS said the government has introduced whistleblowing, where those who provide the authority with useful information to check excesses in the service would be rewarded.