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428 federal government agencies will not able to pay workers’ salaries by end of November – Ben Akabueze

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Ben-Akabueze

The implementation of N30,000 minimum wage appears to be taking its toll on the federal workforce as the Director-General of Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, disclosed on Tuesday that about 428 out of the over 700 federal government agencies will not be able to pay workers’ salaries by the end of November.

Akabueze, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, associated the development to the new minimum wage, which implementation commenced among federal workers in January, this year.

He said since the introduction of the new minimum wage, most of the agencies had been struggling to pay their workforce in the last 10 months.

Akabueze, however, assured the committee that government will dip its hand into the service wide vote to cater for the shortfall in the salaries of the affected workers in the said parastatals.

Responding to the issue of underfunding of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, the Budget Office boss explained to the lawmakers that his office will only appropriate fund to the Office of Auditor General of Federation based on the extant laws.

He said since he became the Director General of the Budget Office, there has been an improvement in the budget of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.

According to him, when it comes to capital budget, the budget office is guided by the approved budget for those agencies.

Akabueze said the government could not give any approval for staff recruitment in 2020 due to Covid-19, adding that it is illogical for government to recruit during the pandemic.

He stated that the sectors that did not shut down recruitment during the Covid-19 pandemic this year were those of health and security.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, had earlier in his remarks, accused the Executive of deliberately underfunding the Office of Auditor General of the Federation.

He wondered why an agency that is meant to fight institutional corruption be underfunded by the Executive while the other agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) are properly funded.

He said: “The continued underfunding of the Office of Auditor General of the Federation, which is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of ensuring transparency, accountability and probity in governance is so glaring.

“It is an irony that while the office which is constitutionally established to ensure accountability and transparency in the management of public funds of the federation is having a reduced allocation, while similar agencies established to achieve a fraction of this objective are well funded through incremental budgetary allocations.

“Therefore, the proposed budget of N4.6 billion may not be adequate for the audit of the sum of N13 trillion in the year 2021 being the total budget proposal of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The office of the Auditor General for the federation is in need of replacing 247 retired staff which has not been provided for in the budget proposal.

“The promotion and annual increment of staff are also not factored into the year 2021 budget. There is need to digitalize and automate the system of the specialized audit which was also proposed for in the year 2021 budget for the office.”

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