By Jurbe Joseph Molwus PhD
I read a press release from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) yesterday 18th May 2020 on premiumtimesng.com. The release was titled “IPPIS: Nigerian Universities misled us into paying dead lecturers – Accountant General”.
After carefully reading the content of the release, I am compelled as a concerned and effected citizen to bring to the fore, some of the burning concerns associated with the implementation of IPPIS in the Nigerian Universities that the AGF is shying away from.
I am seriously disturbed that the AGF would make such selective, baseless and cursory responses to issues as important as the ones associated with IPPIS.
I wonder whether the AGF is deliberately avoiding the other issues which I will highlight later or he is clearly demonstrating the best of his capabilities in addressing the issues. Whichever be the case, it is unfortunate to say the least, that this is what the AGF could offer in an office as sensitive as the one he holds in a country with very many eminently qualified citizens that could handle the affairs of the office much better.
The AGF is in charge of the national treasury and has the undeniable responsibility of convincingly clearing our practical doubts on IPPIS. But the way he is going about it suggests that he lacks the capacity to be in that office and I think all the professional bodies he belongs to should be worried about the performance of this their member and call him to order. Kindly read along as I quickly take you through the weaknesses of his claims and the lingering issues, he has been unable to address.
The office of the AGF claims that it paid dead University staff because “the Institutions deliberately forwarded to IPPIS the list containing dead ASUU members as being part of their personnel to get more personnel fund”.
On this, the AGF needs to answer the following questions: is IPPIS no longer designed to eliminate ghost workers as it had been touted to be?
Is it now garbage in garbage out? Was IPPIS not designed to only capture individuals personally using their biometrics?
Is it not the desperation of the AGF to pay people not captured on the platform that led to the payment of deceased persons even if the institutions submitted their names as claimed?
Some retired staff in some universities were also paid the two months’ salaries.
Is IPPIS not supposed to automatically remove such staff from the payroll as we were told it was capable of doing?
So why did he pay them? By this, the AGF has alluded to the fact that IPPIS is blind to all these and thus, a failed system.
On “non – receipt of paid salaries”, the records must be put straight less the AGF mislead Nigerians.
Currently, there are seven Federal Universities in which no single ASUU member has received payment of the two moths withheld salaries the office of the AGF is claiming to have paid.
Moreover, among the Universities where some ASUU members have been paid, there is none with 100% payment report so far.
The AGF claims that those not paid are either among 1,180 Lecturers whose Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) failed verification test or have been married and have not updated their records.
Is the AGF expecting Nigerians to believe him that in the seven federal Universities where no ASUU member has been paid, all the Lecturers failed the test of validation and confirmation of account details or they have all been married and have not updated their account details as he claims?
It should be noted that, the number of Academic staff in one of the seven Universities alone is more than 1,180.
This claimed validation and confirmation of account details, was it by the same CBN through which salaries used to be paid before now?
Would the AGF need to be informed that President Buhari was aware that members of ASUU refused to enrol on IPPIS when he directed the payment of their two months withheld salaries?
Why did not he pay them through GIFMIS pending the resolution of the ongoing disagreement?
About the deduction of 2.5% of basic salary for the National Housing Fund (NHF).
It is important to draw the attention of the AGF to the fact that President Buhari declined assent to the amendment act last year on the grounds that it imposes too much deductions (https://www.mondaq.com/Nigeria/Finance-and-Banking/799248/Nigeria39s-President-Declines-Assent-To-National-Housing-Fund-Bill-2018 ) and one wonders what is driving the AGF.
However, the deduction if at all necessary, is supposed to be 2.5% of basic salary but what IPPIS deducts is 2.5% of gross pay.
The Protest by ASUU against this deduction has a history in line with which I wrote the following in a recent article:
“Come to think of it, some colleagues have been able to build their personal houses mostly, using facilities from their cooperatives most of which are still being serviced.
So, tell me why you would force someone to whom housing is no longer an issue to save for housing without their consent? Suffice it to state more clearly that, most of those who took loans from the cooperatives to complete their houses are still servicing such loans but IPPIS will NOT make and remit such deductions”.
Why has the AGF failed to address the issue of non-deduction of third-party contributions that border on the welfare of workers by IPPIS?
Could he have avoided it because as I wrote before “they want to impoverish University workers by creating confusion and stifling all welfare arrangements from individual workers’ salaries”?
The AGF made reference to a number of laws selectively but deliberately refused to refer to the University autonomy law and the ASUU/FGN 2009 agreement.
It is necessary to inform the AGF that the ASUU/FGN 2009 agreement is a law because it has been registered with the Supreme Court of Nigeria. If he is in doubt he can verify.
Moreover, all the allowances (earnable) due to University Lecturers are clearly spelled out in the ASUU/FGN 2009 agreement, again the AGF should make efforts to verify to spare himself the embarrassment of “ignorantly”/deliberately calling the allowances of the University Lecturers illegal.
On the issues of the non – remittance of Union dues. So IPPIS does not keep records of what it deducts?
On the issue of consequential adjustment, is the AGF claiming he released the money to the institutions and they refused to pay their staff?
He needs to come out and say so clearly. Since last year, the office of the AGF keeps assuring University workers that their peculiarities had been taken care of by IPPIS. But what do we see today?
Some other issues have been widely raised which the AGF did not address in his press release. These include:
1.That there are indicting reports from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation on the operations of IPPIS, on issues ranging from lack of audit trail to lack of adequate security control measures thereby making it open to untraceable manipulations (https://aljazirahnews.com/revealed-rot-in-accountant-generals-office/).
For instance, one of the reports revealed that 152 officers on IPPIS did not have personnel files in their MDAs, while N193m was paid to unidentified persons (https://www.thenicheng.com/33819-2/amp/).
Were these also because the institutions included dead persons’ names on their payroll?
Note that these predate the payment of University employees using IPPIS.
2.The response of the office of the AGF to ASUU’s query about the exemption of some federal government agencies from IPPIS. About which I wrote earlier: “The AGF in December, 2019 claimed that NDIC, FIRS, NNPC, CBN etc. are exempted because they are revenue generating agencies and do not draw from the consolidated federation account.
This claim is very fluid, ridiculous and untenable and one expects that all discerning minds would not accept it.
The fact that they are revenue generating agencies does not guarantee they will be free from: ghost workers, payroll manipulations and other salary related corrupt practices.
Therefore, if IPPIS is genuinely being deployed to fight corruption, then they should not be exempted unless if there is another justifiable reason.
Or, is the AGF saying that such infractions are allowed in those agencies simply because they generate revenue?
3.ASUU is not against the Federal Government’s fight against corruption but desires that the fight should be done according to the laws of the land as far as the University system is concerned.
That is why ASUU is developing the University Transparency and Accountability Solution to be domesticated in the Universities according to their autonomy law. It should at this point, be clearly stated that ASUU is not University administration that supplied IPPIS with payroll information of the Universities.
The AGF will need to come clear and convincingly clarify these issues to the general public. Since the AGF is going the way of the laws albeit, selectively, he needs to also refer to the extant law that enables the use of IPPIS.
Finally, may I appeal to the general public to try to get balanced information on IPPIS to enable them make informed contributions to the ongoing debate no matter the level of their loyalty to the “government of integrity”.
ASUU’s struggle has been on for a while simply because some of those who benefitted from it have continued to fight ASUU mainly because of their loyalty to government.
Whatever, anybody’s reason may be for hating ASUU, they should remember that, “The mouth of an elder may stink but out of it comes wisdom”. A Tonga proverb.
Jurbe Joseph Molwus, PhD Writes from the Department of Building, University of Jos.
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