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Opinion

Transparency and Staff Welfare: The Missing Links in KWIRS management*

by Sulaiman Onimago writes from Ilorin

 

The Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) was established by the immediate past administration with a clear mission; to mobilize revenue for the strategic development of Kwara State, and for the state to become self-sufficient and reduce its dependence on federal allocations. To realise this mission, former governor Abdulfatah Ahmed appointed an economic cum financial expert, Murtala Awodun to lead the revenue body.

Under Awodun’s leadership, KWIRS flourished, embracing a culture of professionalism, transparency, accountability, community engagement/development, and top priority given to staff welfare. This transformation made KWIRS a model for other states.

However, in recent years, there has been a decline in these values, prompting concerns from Kwarans about the future of the Revenue Service. The management and operations of KWIRS require urgent attention to address these significant concerns and restore the Service to its former glory.

Firstly, the tradition of monthly revenue disclosures, which provided transparency and accountability has been replaced with a promise of quarterly feedback under the new leadership of KWIRS and the current government. However, as we approach the end of the second quarter of 2024, there has been no public disclosure of revenue figures for the first quarter. This lack of transparency is troubling, particularly when the KWIRS had committed to regular updates in the past. It is the same way the present administration had stopped the publication of its monthly FAAC allocations. It took some of us extra mile to bring the KWIRS to the kneel before it eventually declared N56bn as to the total revenue realised in 2023.

Additionally, there are growing concerns about staff welfare and the overall work environment in the agency. Revenue staff, who play a critical role in the functioning of KWIRS, are facing numerous challenges. The Cooperative society of the Service that was once a reliable support system for staff, is now struggling due to an overload of loan requests, stemming from a lack of motivation and support for staff by the management.

Furthermore, the working conditions in KWIRS, including poor electricity supply in the old building and uncertainty about the completion of the new Revenue House that has gulped billions of naira, are far from ideal.

Field staff, who are entitled to allowances upon deployment to various area offices, are finding the conditions and targets given to them unrealistic. The lack of motivation, coupled with the dangers they face in an insecure environment, is not being addressed adequately by the management.

There is also a troubling issue with the freedom of expression within the organization. Staff members who voice their concerns about these conditions risk facing suspension, which stifles open communication and the ability to address problems constructively. Staff would rather stay silent than voice out the challenges they’re constantly faced with. Why should this be the case when we are not in an autocratic society.

Regarding staff compensation, there are significant disparities. The current salaries of entry-level employees at KWIRS are lower compared to those of neighbouring states that have modeled their systems after Kwara. For example, despite protests in 2022, a degree holder’s take-home pay is less than N60,000, while in a neighboring state, the same position attracts a N90,000 salary. The contributory pension scheme in place at KWIRS, which is not common among other government agencies in Kwara State, raises concerns about the future of financial security of long-term employees.

Promotion processes have also deteriorated, with delays and retroactive effective dates causing dissatisfaction among staff. Previously, promotions were timely, but now, letters are received months later with retroactive implementation, creating frustration and uncertainty.

To ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of KWIRS, it is crucial to address these issues. Transparent revenue reporting as promised should be prioritized to build trust with the public. Staff welfare must be improved through meaningful remunerations, better working conditions and a supportive environment that encourages open communication.

By addressing these concerns, KWIRS can enhance its operational efficiency and fulfill its mission of contributing to the development of Kwara State.

This is an opinion from Sulaiman Onimago writes from Ilorin

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