NASS battling to overcome N17billion debt overhang
Saraki, Senate President
By Titus Agbo, Abuja
The National Assembly (NASS) is burdened by the debt hang of over N17 billion and the management is finding it difficult to meet its obligations to both the workers and the legislators.
The worst hit are the legislative aides who have not been paid allowances due to them since the beginning of this present assembly even as tax deductions on their monthly salaries have subsequently been raised without explanations.
Each legislator apart from principal officers is entitled five staff with an average salary scale of level 8 and 16 and quarterly allowances of between N75, 000 and N100, 000.
However, the legislators’ allowances according to Oracle Today investigation have also been slightly adjusted due to the effects of the debt burden that is even affecting regular payment of salaries.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity noted that the problem was responsible for the inability of the National Assembly management to procure office items and operational vehicles for members of the legislature.
As at the moment, not up to half of the Reps have been allocated operational vehicles while so many offices are yet to get complete office equipment and many had to acquire such on their own to keep their offices functioning.
The source who further disclosed that the debt issue was responsible for the additional N10billion requested by NASS in the 2017 budget said management was practically borrowing to pay salaries at the moment ,adding that without the increment the situation would become more precarious.
He however disclosed that the management under the current Clerk of the National Assembly, (CNA) Mohammed Sani- Omolori was doing everything possible to plug every loophole in the system and that led to the to the recent staff verification exercise that exposed over 150 ghost workers in the legislative arm of government,
One hundred of the ghost workers were allegedly discovered in the House of Representatives, sources said, adding, “the verification exercise has turned up fundamental discoveries,”.
“The exercise was also part of the measures put in place to reduce the running cost of the legislative arm because of the N17billion debt which has been giving the leadership some concern.”. Sources further emphasized.
A sum of N7b is earmarked for the purchase of utility vehicles and office equipment for the lawmakers in the 2017 budget.
N9.6b including N150m for capital projects was allocated to Legislative aides by the National Assembly management in the 2017 budget.
In a memorandum to all lawmakers, details of legislative aides attached to individual lawmakers were requested.
This was prompted by reports that some lawmakers employed fewer than the mandatory five aides.
The lawmakers were requested to provide the names, designation, cadre and other details of their aides.
The management had already reduced the number and salaries of legislative aides to the presiding officers and their deputies.
Between then, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker have about 20 aides earning between N450, 000 and N950, 000 monthly in addition to furniture allowance of N3.6million and quarterly impress of between N600, 000 and N1million..
The completion of the physical appearance was followed by physical payment of salary which did not go down well with a number of workers..
This became necessary as it was discovered that some workers that turned up for the physical verification failed to show up for the salary table payment.
Sources said some names on the payroll were those who had either left the service or transferred from NASS.
It was discovered that some of those that had either retired or dead still maintain their places on the payroll.
The discovery of all these was made possible by the physical audit exercise.
“It is now obvious that the management was just burdened by induced manipulations but I think by the time this is concluded and necessary sanctions applied on those found culpable, the fortune of the institution will begin to improve,” said an inside source..