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Proposed LG Reforms In Imo May Suffer Set back As Perm Secs Establish

LGSC Shun Imo Assembly Resolution

The much expected  Local Government Reforms in Imo State is not yet in sight as there seem to to be deliberate hiccups to it following the refusal of the Permanent Secretary Establishments,  Office of the Head of Service and the Local Government Service Commission to implement the resolution of the Imo State House of Assembly on the full implementation of the “APPROVED SCHEME OF SERVICE (SOS) FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN NIGERIA 4TH EDITION (2006) as it concerns the appointment of the Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA) for the 27 Local Governments in Imo State as is the case in the other 35 States of the Federation.

It was gathered that while the Permanent Secretary Establishments posited that the SOS for Local Governments for the 774 LGAs of the Federation which he described as illegal cannot be implemented under his watch, the Local Government Service Commission is conniving with the Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS) and Treasurers (TRs) of the 27 LGAs to frustrate the implementation of the Imo House of Assembly resolutions as doing that will reduce the octopus-like posture of the DAGS and Treasurers (TRs) in the Local Government Service and place all Directors on the same footing, as before the Resolutions, the duo (DAGS and TRs) present themselves as super Directors. This is so because the HOLGA will now be in charge of overall Administration in the LGAs and the DAGS and TRs will now become Directors/Heads of Department as stated in the Scheme of Service.

It was also gathered that while the current Permanent Secretary Establishments was serving as the Principal Secretary to Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, he deliberately stopped the Assembly Resolutions from getting to the then Governor and his immediate Predecessor at Establishments,  now at the Local Government Service Commission was dilly-dallying on handling the Resolutions when she was at the Establishments.

Reliable and insider sources told our reporter that the Approved Scheme of Service (SOS) For Local Government Employees in Nigeria Fourth Revised Edition (2006) provided for seven functional Departments viz: Administration and General Services, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Budget/Planning/Research/Statistics, Primary Healthcare, Social Development/Education/Information/Sport, Works/Transport/Housing/Lands/Survey. Each of these Departments is headed by a Director on Salary Grade Level 16. The same Scheme of Service page 1 provided for the post of “Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA)” on Salary Grade Level 17, which is at par with Permanent Secretaries of State and Federal Civil Services respectively. The 2006 Local Government Scheme of Service the same page 1, Section 3, Sub-section 3.1 provides as follows: The post (HOLGA) is open to all staff of a Local Government on Grade Level 16. Appointment of Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA) should strictly be based on merit, seniority, competence, and experience.

Upon investigation, our reporter discovered that this provision in the Local Government Scheme of Service has been implemented in the 747 LGAs of the Federation (i.e. 35 States and FCT), except in the 27 LGAs of Imo State where it has been selfishly played down on by vested interest. Presently, it is the DAGS that is illegally usurping the duties of HOLGA, as he is the Approving Officer, Paying Officer, Accounting Officer, and supervising fellow Directors which are at par with the DAGS Office.

Our reporter also learnt that the former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha approved and directed the Local Government Service Commission to appoint 27 HOLGA on Grade Level 17, which was duly complied with.

It was gathered that 12DAGS, 7Treasurers/Directors of Finance, 3Directors Budget and Planning, 3Directors of Social Development and 2Directors of Works and Housing respectively made the list. Unfortunately, Primary Healthcare and Agriculture and Natural  Resources Departments that parade much-qualified Directors were schemed out of the appointments. Investigation revealed that one DAGS (name withheld) who was not appointed because he is not qualified petitioned the Local Government Service Commission to the Imo State House of Assembly, which succeeded in putting the appointments on hold.

In their resolve to ensure that the appointments of HOLGA did not see the light of the day; 16members of DAGS FORUM (who are not qualified and were not appointed for HOLGA), in another petition dated 14th November 2019 against the Local Government Service Commission which was addressed to the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly claimed that “the post of HOLGA is only an elevation of the post of DAGS”, thus praying that all serving DAGS should be elevated to the Grade Level 17 position. In their petition, they also asked that the duty of signing cheques should be fused on the HOLGA contrary to the provisions of the SOS. They added that all the serving DAGS (including those not qualified) should be appointed the HOLGA at this initial appointment while other Directors from other departments can be appointed on their (DAGS) retirement – a stand that proves that their claim that the HOLGA is only for the DAGS is untrue. When our reporter laid hand the provisions of the Local Government Scheme of Service page 1 (Duties of HOLGA) and page 63(Duties of DAGS), it was discovered that the position of Forum of DAGS is sharply against the Scheme of Service provisions.

Irked with the petitions of DAGS, the FORUM OF DIRECTORS of other Departments in the Local  Governments wrote a clarifying protest to the Imo State House of Assembly dated 18th November 2019, affirming that the post of the HOLGA is open to all Directors on Grade Level 16 in the Local Government Service in Nigeria.

According to them, the FORUM OF DAGS has continued to blackmail, influence, and comprise the past Local Government Service Commissions from appointing the HOLGA, hence their present expression of acrimony and dissatisfaction because they were not allowed to control the present appointments. They further clarified that the appointments of HOLGA is likened to the appointments of Permanent Secretaries in the State and Federal Civil Services where all serving Directors across all Departments are considered based on merit, etc. The FORUM OF DIRECTORS cited the appointments of the current Heads of Service of Imo State and Federal Civil Services who are from Statistics and Medical Cadres respectively, and not from core Administrative Cadre as shining examples.

They went ahead to prove that most of the DAGS are not qualified for the position of HOLGA because they were made Directors via the unpopular indigenization policy of Rochas Okorocha Administration which appointed them (indigenized  DAGS) over their superiors in negation to the rules and guidelines of Public Service. They concluded that the actions of DAGS in this regard is tantamount to misconduct which is punishable under the Public Service Rule, praying for the full implementation of the Approved Scheme of Service for Local Government Employees  Fourth Revised Edition 2006 so that Imo State Local Government Service will be at par with other Local Governments of the Federation.

When our reporter accosted a Principal officer of one of the 27LGAs who pleaded anonymity, he lamented that the non-appointment of HOLGA has engendered fraud and financial recklessness in the 27LGAs of the State as it made DAGS’/TRs super gods. They unilaterally take every decision across the seven Departments without any form of consultation and run the Local Government as their private estates. He enjoined the current State Government to commence the process of reforming the Local Government Service so as to bring enhanced productivity, discipline, and financial sanity to the system.

Analysts believe that the best and easiest way to get the Local Government system back to working is to ensure that the APPROVED SCHEME OF SERVICE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA (2006) is fully implemented in Imo State to curb the excesses, rot, illegality avarice, etc. bedeviling the system in the State. They finally submitted that it will equally engender transparency, equity, productivity, and career progression in the Imo State Local Government Service and facilitates the implementation of government policies for grassroots development.

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