I’ll protect the interest of civil servants – Ambode
A new deal awaits civil servants in Lagos State if the All Progressive Congress (APC) retains the state at the forthcoming gubernatorial election slated for April 11, 2015.
In the new deal both government and union will seat down to agree on the salary structure and leave bonus arrangement most suitable to the generally of the workers. Also, a quarterly meeting between the governor and the civil servants is also part of the deal that will be designed to make the new dispensation cordial and truly rewarding to the Lagos State workforce.
Making this disclosure on Friday at an interactive session with Permanent Secretaries, Directors and hundreds of civil servants in the state was the APC governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who said being a career civil servant, his candidacy has put an end to the jinx that civil servant do not aspire beyond being a Director or Permanent Secretary.
“My emergence has broken the jinx and barrier that all we can become is a Permanent Secretary or Director. My message to you is that we can become all we choose to be with hard work and living above board. I will be a failure if I do not strive hard to produce several other Akinwunmi Ambode from the civil service. This is your project. There is no other person who can protect your interest better in the next four years than me,” he said.
Speaking to a large crowd of civil servants at the Adeyemi Bero hall inside Alausa secretariat in Ikeja, Ambode, who voluntarily retired in 2012 as the Accountant General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, told the workers that a new deal, which would positively affect their welfare and progress was in the offing for them, if they elect him as the next governor of the state.
He said: “Better days are coming. My word is my bond. We will put a lot of attention on processes and procedures in order to strengthen the public service structure in Lagos State. I will engage with union leaders and civil servants on a quarterly basis, because I believe strongly that stakeholders’ needs should guide our policies. Public sector reforms are dynamic. What is good today may require a review tomorrow.
“I will pay greater attention to training and capacity building. Every civil servant in our state must have the opportunity to develop themselves further. There is nothing that says we can’t send civil servants to Harvard University. This is the only way civil servants can be good to the system and be useful to themselves after retirement,” he stated.
The Epe-born accountant also used the occasion to make clear the air on the issue of consolidated salary structure which has reportedly created some misgivings among civil servants in the state.
According to Ambode, no single individual, let alone the Accountant General, could have unilaterally changed or adjusted the salary structure of civil servants in the state from harmonized to consolidated salary structure. While the former allowed for different promotional scales and a leave bonus that is paid at once in the month that an individual chooses to observe his or vacation, the latter has only two grading steps and has the leave bonus spread on the worker’s consolidated salary every month.
He said: “What happened was that the unions in 2010 chose to migrate from the harmonized salary structure to the consolidated because they believed it would give them a 25 per cent raise like federal workers. It took four and half months for the government to ratify it. All the files are there to verify the details. The circular explained the agreement and process. As the Accountant General, my only duty was to execute the decision.
“I think people were only interested in the expected increase in their monthly salary but did not bother to ask for the details as to how it would impact on their leave bonuses. If the decision was taken by Ambode as being erroneously peddled in some quarters, at least my successor, the new Accountant General, would have reversed it. But the truth is that the government acceded to what the workers demanded through the union. There has been some challenge in communication about this issue. Some people are politicizing it because they do not want one of you to be governor.”
He further explained that it was gladdening that the unions are still in consultation with the incumbent governor, promising to take the negotiations further if elected as governor. “As a civil servant, I was trained not to talk anyhow. But it is important to clarify these issues. I assure you that things will change. Your leave bonus has always been paid and will continue to be paid. Issues of salary reviews will also be looked into. Cars and housing loans may not necessarily go round, but we will review it and ensure less bureaucracy for those who qualify to access them,” he stated.
Ambode, who reiterated that he voluntarily retired in 2012 after 27 years in service so as to give others the opportunity to rise, said while his promise that his word was a bond is unwavering, he would prefer a two-way arrangement. He said: “This should also be an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between us – you need to vote for me so that I can keep my own side of the bargain.”
In his reposnse, the Chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Comrade A. Obafemi, said the civil servants were already discussion with the incumbent, Governor Babatunde Fashola, SAN and that they hold strong belief that Ambode would not disappoint the workers when elected.