From Timothy Agbor/OSOGBO
Owing to the new contributory pension scheme that necessitated the retirement of some senior public workers in Osun state in December 2012, the state government has released a sum of N1billion for the settlement of the pension arrears of the retired public workers.
This was disclosed in a statement released by the state Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Dr. Wale Bolorunduro, made available to journalists newsmen in Osogbo, the state capital. Bolorunduro stated that the government has thus commenced the immediate payment to the affected retirees.
Specifically, the Commissioner said that the money was released from the state’s treasury in a bid to improve on the welfare of the citizenry particularly the senior citizens.
The state government however lamented that the current fiscal challenges regarding payment of pension and other related commitments is not the making of the present administration saying that pension arrears emanated from the administrative bottlenecks and improper cashflow planning attributable to the last administration in the state.
According to Bolorunduro, “the State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in continuation of the fulfilment of his resolve to improve on the welfare of the citizens, particularly senior citizens, has approved that the sum of N1billion be released immediately to the retirees that were forced to retire by the last administration. The payment has thus commenced.
“Whereas the state continues to uphold the welfare of its senior citizens as one of its topmost priorities, it needs to be stated that the issues leading to the pension arrears are actually not the makings of the current administration. The N1billion is an addition to the payment made on the 142 percent pension arrears.
“The challenges actually commenced with the huge 142 percent pension arrears, the current administration inherited from the last administration in 2010. At the inception of the current administration, the state’s liability on the 142 percent pension arrears was about N4 billion. In demonstration of the magnanimity of the present government, up to N1.2billion of the inherited liability hitherto unattended to by the previous administrations was paid.
“The impact of the mass retirement of the state’s employees late 2012, given their unwillingness to join the contributory pension scheme in the state also contributed in no small measure to the current challenges and the origin of 2011/2012 Retiree Forum. Aside from the fact that the previous administration that approved the forceful resignation of the group of the referenced retirees did not consider the cashflow implication when granting the approval of the forceful exit, it is also worth mentioning that the administrative bottlenecks in processing retirees’ entitlements also contributed to the problem.
“The last administration failed to automate the manual processing of retirees’ benefits to take care of the surge in their number, thereby leading to delay of processing the Authority to collect (ATC) papers of the retired personnels. This consequently led to the situation whereby some people who retired since December 2012 were unable to submit their ATCs until as late as November 2013. This is the genesis of the pension arrears. Government has however kept pace to pension-roll the retirees as soon as their Authority papers are submitted.
“For avoidance of doubts, over 5,000 employees of the state joined the existing over 9,000 retirees in the state, while the local government retirees schedule also increased by about 3,500.
“Of course the fresh recruitment conducted in 2013 by the state was to fill the numerous vacancies created by the massive retirement. In the middle of all these, the retirees continue to enjoy their monthly emoluments (in form of pension), albeit slightly reduced by 15 percent.
“The impact of the aforementioned 2011/2012 retirement was an unprecedented surge in the state’s salary and pension obligations from N250 million in November 2011 to N600 million monthly now, and the creation of relatively young retirees, called 2011/2012 Retirees Group.
“Total pension arrears arising from the aforesaid forced retirement was recently ascertained. For the interest of the concerned and in further demonstration of the current administration’s humane spirit and resolution to ensure that the interest of all and sundry in the state is well protected, and as recently approved by Mr. Governor, the state has further earmarked the sum of N1billion towards payment of the established outstanding liability on the pension.
“To this end, payment of the pension arrears has commenced in earnest.
The state government however expressed appreciation for the understanding and patience exercised by retirees during the challenging period, but also soliciting for further support to the current administration and its various beneficial programs.