IPPIS controversy: FG hits ASUU, says no agency must oppose payment system

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Sunday Aborisade, Olufemi Atoyebi, Bola Bamigbola and Abiodun Nejo

The Federal Government again on Thursday hit at the Academic Staff Union of Universities for opposing the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System of the Federal Government, saying no government agency must resist it.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who stated this at the budget defence secession organised by the Senate Committee on Finance in Abuja, described ASUU’s opposition as misplaced.
ASUU has opposed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, who at the 2020 budget presentation in the National Assembly on October 8, ordered that all public sector workers to register for the IPPIS to save cost and fight corruption.
But the lecturers on Monday opposed the Federal Government, saying the IPPIS negated the law on university autonomy.
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, countered ASUU, saying its position was an endorsement of corruption.
The IPPIS, which was introduced in 2007, is aimed at centralising payroll and payment systems, facilitating convenient staff remuneration with minimal wastage as well as aiding manpower training and budgeting.
You can’t be staff members of all varsities, minister tells lecturers
On Thursday, the Finance Minister, Ahmed, faulted ASUU, saying no government must resist the IPPIS.
She said, “The resistance to the IPPIS is misplaced as far as I am concerned because there is no agency of government that must resist it. It must be treated with utmost importance. The universities and some medical institutions have some peculiarities.
“For instance, a medical officer in the public service can consult in different hospitals, but he should still have one primary point of employment.
“A lecturer, based on the approval given by the minister, is also allowed to lecture in more than one universities. That, however, does not mean that he should feature in all the institutions as a staff member.
“At best, there would be special allowances that would be due to them for those extra-work. The allowances should, however, not be included in the payroll.
“We have been discussing with them and we are arranging peculiar allowances for them too. This is to make sure that the extra-work they do, according to the limits that is allowed, is provided for in the payroll.
“They have understood now that their concerns would be addressed and they have started working with us. As we speak, the Accountant General staff are on the field trying to capture the last batch of the staff into the IPPIS.”
The Minister said the IPPIS had been extremely beneficial because the Federal Government had been able to save up to about N250bn from the exercise.
She said, “The savings would be more when we integrate the HI component of the IPPIS which is controlled by the Head of Service.
“It is a record of staff. When a worker retires from the service, the system will automatically log him out.
“At the moment, we await instructions before we log out retired workers. Some people have retired but they are still on the payroll. There are lots of cleaning up that we have to do. We have been working with the Head of Service to fast-track that integration.
READ ALSO: LASG refuses to publish details of N873.5bn budget
It will fish out those who shouldn’t be on payroll
“So far, we have been able to put most Federal Government agencies on the platform. It helps us to control those that were not supposed to be on the payroll.”
According to her, only few tertiary institutions that are still resisting the IPPIS. She, however, said government was discussing with such institutions.
More ASUU chapters oppose IPPIS
But more chapters of ASUU on Thursday opposed the IPPIS. The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the union Coordinator in Abuja, Prof. Theophilus Lagi, at a news conference in Gwagwalada, explained that lack of flexibility in the IPPIS had made it inappropriate to address the peculiarity in the university system.
Lagi said there was no clear and convincing evidence that the IPPIS could capture remuneration of staff on sabbatical, external examiners and earned academic allowance.
According to him, IPPIS will constitute an impediment in the ability of universities to recruit staff for new programmes as well as replace newly employed staff until they are enrolled into IPPIS data base.
He said, “The law establishing each university is an Act of the National Assembly; hence cannot be upturned by operations of the office of the AGF.”
Also, NAN reported that the ASUU Coordinator in Lagos Zone, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, during a press conference at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, said the policy was not acceptable to the union.
Sowande noted that it was important for the Federal Government to consider the peculiarities of the universities and their enabling laws before such decisions could be made.
He added that universities operated differently from the civil service and should, therefore, not be seen as appendages of ministries, departments and agencies of government.
Sowande said, “In addition to the Act establishing each university, there is the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act, 2003.
“The Act states in Section 2(A) that the power of the council shall be exercised as in the laws and statutes of each university and to that extent, the establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the laws and statutes of the university shall not apply to the university.
“IPPIS will not recognise nor adequately capture the flexibility and peculiarities of the university system in terms of replacement/recruitment of staff,” he said.
Sowande explained that ASUU believed that the Presiden would not violate his oath of office, but would rather abide by the constitution and the law of the land.
He added that the union was not opposed to accountability and transparency in handling public funds.
The ASUU chairman further explained that the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had no business in superintending over or introducing any financial control or cost saving measure in the university.
Sowande argued that such power and responsibilities were vested in the governing council of each university.
Also, ASUU Chairman, University of Lagos, Dr Dele Ashiru, said that the introduction of the IPPIS was a total violation of the constitution.
CONUA to take position before Monday
But a breakaway faction of ASUU, Congress of University Academics, said it would take an independent decision on IPPIS before Monday.
The Convener of CONUA at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Ayodeji Ige, who is also the Legal Adviser to the group at the national level, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “I have just got in touch with the headquarters. The five institutions that are spearheading CONUA will be meeting to discuss this issue exhaustively. So, we are still more or less putting heads together to know where to meet; maybe tomorrow, maybe day after, before Monday, we will have a position on IPPIS.”
Also the CONUA General Secretary, Dr Henry Oripeloye, who is a leader of the association at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, corroborated Ige, saying, “We are holding our congress where we will take a position. We will discuss it (IPPIS) to take a position”.
Don’t sabotage IPPIS, BMO tells lecturers
According to another NAN report, the Buhari Media Organisation advised ASUU to stop its opposition to the IPPIS.
In a statement by its Chairman, Mr Niyi Akinsiju, BMO said that such an action could truncate smooth academic exercise nationwide.
The BMO stated, “ASUU should not allow itself to be seen as saboteurs of a scheme that is weeding out ghost workers and improving the efficiency of payroll administration in public universities,” the statement made available to newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja said.
According to him, ASUU’s plan for a showdown over the IPPIS can easily be interpreted as corruption fighting back.
“This is a scheme that has, since 2017, saved the country over N230bn that could have gone into private pockets through fictitious payment of salaries and pensions, according to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation
“Since President Buhari issued a directive that all ministries, departments and agencies drawing salaries and personnel costs from the Consolidated Revenue Fund be enrolled in the IPPIS, even the police and the armed forces have signed up.
“But surprisingly, a group that is seen as a collection of intellectuals is at the forefront of the opposition to its full implementation.”
According to him, ASUU is premising its stance on the ground that IPPIS will erode the autonomy of the University system and the peculiarities of their earned allowances.
“Nigerians are, however, aware that Buhari, in his budget speech at a joint sitting of the National Assembly on Oct. 8, made it clear that any individual or group not enrolled under the scheme by October will lose their salaries.
“So, can one say that ASUU is threatening a showdown in order to blackmail the government to sustain a corruption-riddled system that has over the years cost the country several billions of naira?”


Your comment






News Archive