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'I Inherited Empty Treasury In Bayelsa' --Says Gov. Dickson

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To the chagrin of many book-makers in the unfolding Bayelsa state polity, Governor Seriake Dickson, on Thursday revealed that he met an empty treasury and a huge debt profile which has mortgaged future developments in the state after the inglorious exit

 of former governor Timipre Sylva, reports.

The unhealthy findings came on the backdrop of an audit panel constituted by the state government and headed by the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, in a bid to scrutinize the expenditure of the past administration in the state.

According to Governor Dickson, 'It is no longer news that we inherited an empty state account with a huge debt profile that seemed to have mortgaged the future of the state before we came to its rescue. We have set up a committee to ascertain the actual level of indebtedness which shall be made public as soon as the Committee concludes its work.

'As I have stated, the people of Bayelsa State would henceforth be briefed monthly, on revenues accruing to the state and expenditure. I have directed all local government chairmen to comply with this paradigm shift on the issue of transparency, probity and accountability, to reflect the new Bayelsa we are building.

'In my inaugural speech, I promised a paradigm shift in the governance culture of our state. In fulfilment of this promise, I have already sent the Bayelsa State Transparency Bill 2012 to the State House of Assembly. The bill has already passed 1st reading and is receiving expeditious consideration in the House. The purpose of this crucial bill is to make it obligatory for us as a state government and the local government councils to publicly declare to Bayelsans, all revenues that accrue to us. I have also sent to the House, four (4) other bills which are also receiving due consideration.

'On transparency, we believe that it is the right of the people of the state, to know what funds accrue to the coffers of the state and the various local government councils and how they are utilised. This is the only way to secure the trust and confidence of the people in whom sovereignty lies.'

Dickson further said that other bills submitted to the State legislature include the state compulsory savings bill 2012, State College of Arts and Science bill 2012, State Secret Cult and Kidnapping and Similar Offences Prohibition bill 2012 and State Thanksgiving Day bill 2012.

He disclosed that due to the balance after expenditure of N5, 901,168,231.81, the state government has opened two special bank accounts, Bayelsa State Strategic Reserve and Savings Account with N2bn with First City Monumental Bank (FCMB) as well as the State Strategic Development Project Account with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) with N5bn initial deposit.

'From this balance, I have directed the opening of two special accounts. The first is the Bayelsa State Strategic Development Project account with UBA domiciled in Yenagoa with Account Number 1016076344. This account is dedicated to funding strategic investments in infrastructural development, agriculture, tourism, education, health and security. Our target is to build up these reserves to enable the award of contracts in compliance with applicable statutes on fiscal responsibility which require that contractual commitments by government should have adequate funding provided.

'The second account is the Bayelsa State Strategic Reserve and Savings Account with FCMB domiciled in Yenagoa, with Account Number: 0281206040. This account as the name implies, is a an interest yielding account dedicated to providing savings for the raining day as a stabilization for our economy in the event of any unforeseen shock. Today, the account has a balance of Two Billion Naira (N2bn).

'The Bayelsa State Compulsory Savings Bill 2012 makes it mandatory for the state to make savings in this Account. By the provisions of the proposed bill, funds in the account cannot be accessed by anybody, except for specific purposes and only with 2/3rd approval of the State House of Assembly. There is also proposed a State Reserves Funds Management Council to be composed of persons of proven integrity, which will advise government on the utilization of this fund.

He said the state government, since his assumption of office, has spent N4.1bn on salaries of civil servants in the state and another N4.9bn on servicing of bank loans in February alone, while N15.6bn was received as February federal allocation to the state.

'We have implemented a new regime of prudence in public expenditure which is a cardinal principle of our financial management. As you can see clearly from the expenditure statements, for this month alone, the sum of N4.1bn was paid as salaries of civil servants. This excludes about N100m outstanding claims by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to augment primary school teachers' salaries. In addition, over N1bn due for pensions and gratuities is being verified at the moment. A total of 684,960,000 went for overhead and running costs after I had reduced it by N1bn instead of the N1.7bn previously expended monthly.

'I have since my inauguration, expressed concern about the high costs of running governance particularly the high cost of our monthly wage bill which stood at N5.7bn. I have for this month authorised only the sum of N4.1bn as salaries alone. The other salary based benefits are under review and would be paid as soon as they are verified.'