Okonjo-Iweala wades in to end strike by Finance Ministry staff

Posted by News Express | 24 July 2014 | 3,163 times

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Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has promptly waded in to resolve issues which yesterday led to a strike by the staff union of the ministry. The workers had said that they were protesting against the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia, on issues bordering on staff welfare, training and related issues.

On her return from the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, Okonjo-Iweala, along with Minister of State, Finance, Alhaji Bashir Yuguda; DG Budget, Dr. Bright Okogu; Mrs. Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia herself and other senior management staff of the ministry, went into a meeting with the union executives to discuss the complaints against their and seek sustainable solutions. The minister expressed concern about the disruption of work occasioned by the protest and its implications for productivity and team work in the ministry. The union and staff expressed their feelings openly and Okonjo-Iweala responded forthrightly and frankly.

The minister gave an update on challenges in the environment, including revenue shortfalls which she said has made prudence in the management of government business critical if priorities are to be met. She explained that resources are front-loaded to security and other key priorities and there is therefore need to manage the implications of doing so. 

Responding to complaints by staff about challenges in their working environment such as breakdown of the lift and air conditioners, bad smells caused by structural problems in the building and so on, The minister asked the Perm Sec to submit a report on progress in dealing with these issues in two weeks.

On scarcity of working materials, Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged that staff should and must get the requisite equipment and materials they need to do their jobs. She, however, stressed that waste and hoarding of stationery, toners and printers must be discouraged. She instructed that the materials be made available but that there should be clear and necessary controls applied.

The minister pointed out that Finance staff should be an example of prudence and professionalism to other ministries because of their central role as a coordinating ministry. She stressed that ministry cannot be preaching prudence without leading the way.

Okonjo-Iweala said that the ministry should keep something aside to provide support when staff experience challenges such as bereavement. She instructed that the modalities for this be worked out without much delay.

On training, which is one of the major contentious issues, the minister declared that there should be no favouritism and that equity must guide decision-making in this area. She stressed that training is not a right but a privilege which must be merited.

Okonjo-Iweala stated that to ensure that the budget is maximised and results achieved, the ministry will combine a mix of external and international training for best results. She stated categorically that the practice of Nigerian trainers taking Nigerian trainees to Dubai and other places for training programmes would have no place in the ministry. The focus would be on a level playing field and every qualified staff would get his entitlements, she said.

On the issue of overtime, the minister stressed that this cannot be an all comers affair but that beneficiaries must be clearly defined while numbers must be manageable and allowances paid promptly.

On promotion arrears, she stressed it is a service-wide issue and not that of the ministry. She pointed out that the payment process has already commenced and assured that all deserving staff would be eventually paid.

The minister instructed that all genuine cases of unpaid salary arrears be brought to her table for immediate action.

•Photo shows Okonjo-Iweala.

Source: News Express

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