By Ignatius Chukwu
Public servants seem to be in love with age falsification and the use of affidavit seems to have created an easy avenue for this. For this reason, experts introduced the biometrics system of verification. In Rivers State, the exercise has not been in futility as over 11,000 workers are said to have been caught in the web.
Also, about 5,000 pensioners could not face the machine, fearing they could be fished out. This has saved huge sums for the Rivers State government so far.
The system is said to have saved several billions of naira that would have monthly gone to such workers and pensioners. The sanity being created in the public service is believed to have encouraged the Nyesom Wike-administration to pursue harder the screening exercise to drastically reduce the monthly wage bill.
Confirming the impact of the biometrics and digital revolution being pushed in the state, the special adviser to Gov Nyesom Wike on ICT, Asawo Ibifuro, told newsmen at the ICT Centre on Aba Road on Monday, February 17, 2020, that the department has played critical roles in pushing toward full e-governance through deliberate digital revolution.
He said apart from the successful biometrics in progress, that the system deployed now identifies civil servants that would retire each year and begin their screening for early payouts. In this guise, he said about 700 would retire in 2020 and would soon face screening.
Asawo said the digital system has reduced the number of years pensioners have to wait to come on the payment platform from sometimes as long as 10 years to less than one year.
The SA said the ICT Department has had huge impact on the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state where the digital processes began years ago. The chairman of the Rivers Internal Revenue Service (RIRS), Adoage Norteh, once told newsmen that the board has continued to use the digital system to increase IGR in the face of economic hardship and exodus of companies without increasing taxes and without causing violent upheavals in the state. He had said that tax collection has achieved huge compliance and friendly engagements due to transparency and simplifying the processes through digital platforms.
Giving a hint of the areas of government departments so far touched, Asawo mentioned deployments in the education sector that would capture all schools and populations, housing sector, land administration, etc.
For 2020, the SA mentioned literacy course oncoming, scheme for 21st education skill, Codegamnators (that teaches how to create cartoons, games, animators, data, etc), techprenuers, techmarketers, ICT Policy for the state, SME Registration, etc.
By what is on the way, all affidavits would be handled online and payments made online with receipts obtained through codes such that there would be no fakes. The state has had an avalanche of affidavits prepared outside the gates of the Ministry of Justice by quacks who charge N1200 instead of N500 official fee, yet, government may not get a dime out of the sums. Also, persons come and re-swear new affidavits on a regular basis. Now, the system would not allow such.
The most important innovation could be the creation of a Rivers App that would make citizens click into any section of the Rivers State government as well as ask questions or make suggestions. It would be a digital interaction between citizens and their government. All businesses operating in Rivers State would be found on it and all budgets would be available.