Nigeria: Govt, ASUU Lock Horns Over Govt Payroll System

Photo: Vanguard
ASUU VS Govt.
25 October 2019

The Federal Government said yesterday that resistance against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, by the Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities, ASUU is misplaced, saying no government agency can resist being captured.

This was the submission of Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who added that progress is being made to capture universities, the military and the Police on the IPPIS platform.,

But the Lagos zone of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, in a swift reaction, described IPPIS as a breach of the agreement the national leadership of the body had with the federal government in 1992, 2001 and 2009 on the autonomy of universities in the country.

Speaking when she appeared before the Committee on Finance, led by Senator Solomon Adeola, APC, Lagos West, in Abuja yesterday, Zainab Ahmed stressed the importance of being captured on the IPPIS system.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a strong warning that any federal government worker not captured on IPPIS by October 31 would not be paid his monthly salary.

President Buhari, who disclosed this during the presentation of the 2020 budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja, said this was part of the Federal Government's efforts at managing personnel costs, in line with its fight against corruption.

Buhari noted that it was part of the Federal Government's efforts at managing personnel costs, said all agencies of government must obtain permission and follow due process as they embark on any recruitment exercise.

Buhari had said: "We shall sustain our efforts in managing personnel costs. Accordingly, I have directed the stoppage of the salary of any Federal Government staff that is not captured on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, platform by the end of October 2019.

"All agencies must obtain the necessary approvals before embarking on any fresh recruitment and any contraventions of these directives shall attract severe sanctions."

Also recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, had kicked against enrolment of its members on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System platform, describing it 'as an open endorsement of corruption."

'No agency of govt can resist IPPIS'

But speaking further yesterday, the Minister of Finance said: "The IPPIS is the Integrated payroll system of the government. So far, we have been able to put most federal government agencies on the platform. It helps us to control practices in the past because we used to have those that were not supposed to be on the payroll.

"The Military, the police and most agencies of government, except for a few tertiary institutions, are still resisting but we have been engaging them and we are in the process of uploading them into the system.

"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 have some peculiarities, some medical institutions too.

"For instance, a consultant 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 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. It has been extremely beneficial because we have had savings up to about N250billion from the exercise and 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 staff retires from the service, the system will automatically log him out. At the moment, we await instructions before we log out retired staff. Some people have retired but they are still on the payroll, so 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."

'Budget 2020 personnel costs too high'

Speaking on high personnel cost in the 2020 budget, the Minister said: "We have a national problem of low productivity, especially within government. Our personnel cost in the 2020 budget proposal is N3.3trillion from a budget size of N10.3 trillion.

"We should collectively work together to see how we can reduce the cost. If we cannot reduce the cost, we should be able to maximize the staff that we have and how we can increase their productivity. When we compare a staff cost of N3.3trillion and a capital of N2.1trillion, it is a mismatch.

"We are definitely portraying ourselves as a nation that our concentration is not on developmental projects but on consumption. It is something that had built up over time. We have to do something that is unpopular, bold and radical to make a difference.

"It is not what the executive alone can do, we will be urging the National Asse,bly to support us when we want to take some radical actions in order to increase productivity, not just in the public service but also nationally."

IPPIS, breach of agreement with us -- ASUU

Reacting to government's action yesterday, the Lagos zone of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, described the IPPIS as a breach of the agreement the national leadership of the union had with the federal government.

Coordinator of ASUU, Lagos zone, Professor Olusiji Sowande, who stated this at a press conference held at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, said the 1992 agreement the union had with the Federal Government had it that "universities should be allowed to operate in compliance with their enabling laws, rules and regulations in conformity with due process and within the laws of the land."

He added that the 2001 agreement stated that "circulars from ministries shall be deemed invalid to the extent that they are inconsistent with the laws and regulations of the universities and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria."

According to Sowande, the 2009 agreement reads: "Each university shall arrange its own cost-saving measures".

While positing that the union was not opposed to accountability and transparency in handling public funds, Sowande said the union would resist any method that violates their agreement with government, as well as set aside the enabling laws, regulations and statues of the universities.

He added: "It is mischievous and irresponsible of the Office of the Accountant -eneral of the Federation to assert that ASUU's opposition to forcible enrolment of university staff into IPPIS is an open endorsement of corruption in the Nigerian university system.

"The AGF, who superintend over the 'Nigerian Corruption Headquarters, should be busy cleaning the rot in his office where nothing happens unless something exchanges hands.

"We believe that the intention of IPPIS, rather that reduce corruption, is to centralize payroll and escalate corruption by some elements in government."

According to him, IPPIS will constitute an impediment to the ability of universities to recruit staff for new programmes as well as replace newly-employed staff until they are enrolled in IPPIS database. Threatening showdown over IPPIS, Sowande 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.

"The office of AGF should note that our members are only answerable to their respective Governing Councils and no university in the world operates IPPIS-related system."

He maintained that enrolling its members into IPPIS contradicts the basic principles of the governing council in the general administration of funds, employment and promotion of staff.

Sowande, however, said it was agreed that the university should be allowed to operate in compliance with their enabling laws, rules and regulations in conformity with due process and the laws of the land.

"Governing Councils shall be left free to exercise their responsibility for good management, growth, and development of their respective universities.

"The IPPIS recognizes 60 years and 65 years, against 70 years retirement age of a professor. On the issue of lecturers on sabbatical leave, IPPIS recognises a maximum period of one year only but applicable to seven years, against the stipulated years.

"Autonomy of the university is a legal issue and the Federal Government will not be allowed to trample upon it. The issues here are very clear as the forcible movement of university workers is an act of illegality and ASUU as a responsible union, will not fold its arms and allow the law to be broken by a mere pronouncement."

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