By Fred Nwaozor
The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is a project initiated by the Federal Government (FG) in the Nigerian public service sector via the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
The IPPIS was introduced to adequately prove the effectiveness and efficiency of payroll administration in the government’s Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
Prior to its implementation by the FG, it was outlined that the IPPIS would accurately and reliably provide the overall personnel information as required by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).
Nigerians were further informed that the electronic platform, if fully implemented, would drastically and holistically reduced or completely eliminate all forms of corrupt and sharp practices as well as facilitate modern scientific and apt budgeting cum forecasting. It’s noteworthy that the IPPIS could boast of a separate department under the OAGF.
The department or unit is solely responsible for the payment of salaries and wages directly to FG employees’ bank accounts. It has equally been reported that apt deductions are instantly made, followed immediately by remittances to a team of third party beneficiaries such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), State Boards of Internal Revenue (BIR), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), National Housing Fund (NHF), Pension Fund Administrator (PFA), Cooperative Societies, Trade Unions’ Dues, Association Dues, Bank Loans (if any) and what have you.
Recently, the IPPIS department boasted that since the inception of the tech-driven mechanism in April 2007, the unit had saved billions of naira for the FG via the elimination of thousands of ghost workers and allied matters.
It’s worthy of note that the streamlined key functions or core mandate of the IPPIS department are, but not limited to: management of FG employees’ records, payment of salaries and wages to the employees, deductions of taxes and other third party payments, remittance of payroll deductions to the benefitting bodies, and enrolment of employees into the IPPIS database.
The overall mission of the IPPIS is to pay the FG employees on-time and accurately within statutory and contractual obligations. Whilst its vision is to have a centralized payroll system that meets the needs of the said employees as well as help the government to plan and manage payroll budget by ensuring proper control of personnel cost.
It could be recalled that recently, sequel to the FG’s frantic move to ensure that all employees are duly enrolled into the IPPIS, the workers of the federal tertiary institutions of learning across the federation – particularly those of the universities – frantically rejected the plan, stating it was against the international extant law that permits the university autonomy.
Owing to the government’s insistence, the majority of the opposing university personnel succumbed to the pressure, hence reluctantly agreed to enroll into the tech-driven system having been conscientized and assured that they would be happier while being paid via the IPPIS.
It’s worth noting that every existing varsity in the country is made up of four distinct workers’ unions, namely: the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU).
So, during the struggle between the FG and the aforementioned unions over enrolment into the IPPIS, three out of the four – namely NAAT, SSANU and NASU – were outshined by the pressure as the ASUU stood its ground, insisting it would never be a party to such scheme, which was seen by its members as a means by the FG to ridicule their rights.
However, it was claimed by the OAGF that some members of the aggrieved ASUU, whom were regarded as “saboteurs and cowards” by their colleagues, were captured into the IPPIS in spite of the directive issued by the national leadership of the union instructing every member to steer clear of the exercise, which they said was shrouded in secrecy and pranks.
The members of the three unions, whom were rigorously captured into the electronic system at the wake of 2020, reportedly received their first salaries via the IPPIS in February. Consequently, the salaries of the subsequent months being March, April and so on, were equally paid through the platform.
The intriguing part of the payment made by the IPPIS department to the university staff was the claim by the latter that their respective salaries were heavily deducted coupled with the allegation that their expected consequential arrears of the newly approved National Minimum Wage was not included.
The affected personnel lamented that at the time they were expecting to receive higher income (wage), the IPPIS department rather short-paid them without their consent or knowledge.
According to the aggrieved employees, particularly the members of the NAAT, aside the required arrears of the new minimum wage, their Earned and Peculiarity (Hazard) Allowances were obviously omitted from the payments, thereby impoverishing them.
They, therefore, urged the OAGF to urgently look into the matter towards addressing the anomalies. While this set of workers was still arguing and crying woefully over the perceived anomaly, the ASUU members who late received the arrears of their withheld salaries equally reportedly suffered from similar fate.
It would be recalled that, subsequently, President Muhammadu Buhari instructed the OAGF to out rightly pay all the striking members of the ASUU to cushion the excruciating effects of the ongoing lockdown occasioned by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Intriguingly, reports following the payment of the ASUU members disclosed that the said workers were paid via the IPPIS as it was mentioned in their respective bank alerts. One would then ask; how could they be paid through the IPPIS without being captured into the digital platform through a biometric method as required by the scheme? One question, too many.
The OAGF has come out to say that the alleged deductions in the university workers’ salaries were as a result of the legitimate taxes accruable to their wages, which were initially overlooked or not properly captured by their various institutions’ bursary units.
Analysts and concerned observers have been compelled to believe that the FG is only focusing on taxing the workers hugely and ‘unreasonably’, citing it as the government’s main current source of income since other sources of revenue are apparently grounded at the moment due to the ravaging effect of the COVID-19.
The various affected unions in the universities have insisted they would opt-out from the IPPIS, threatening a shutdown of their schools whenever the FG calls for reopening of the truncated academic session.
They have unanimously agreed to embark on indefinite industrial action if the outlined issues weren’t sorted out prior to resumption of studies, though the ASUU had made it clear that the union was still on strike.
Truth be told; these uncalled intrigues and technicalities emanating from the IPPIS platform have myriad of questions to be answered by the OAGF.
Questions concerning paying the university teachers via the digital platform without involving biometric capturing, over-deductions of their gross worth, and what have you, must be attended to by the concerned authorities.
Funnily enough, we have equally been reliably informed by the leadership of these unions that the OAGF is yet to remit the deducted dues to their respective bank accounts. Who is then deceiving who?
This incidence has lingered for months now, yet it seems no one is talking about it. These countless challenges must be holistically taken care of before the world starts seeing Nigeria as a point of laughter or a comic centre.
It’s even more baffling when realized that the said office had accused the universities’ management of forwarding the names of dead workers (lecturers) to be enrolled into the IPPIS and the’ dead persons’ had been erroneously paid.
Isn’t it shameful and disgraceful for the office to make such claim public, having earlier notified Nigerians that the IPPIS was targeted to eradicate any form of hitches, aberration and corruption from the system? Inter alia, the OAGF had earlier enthused that the IPPIS would ensure prompt payment of workers’ salaries, yet we are being notified by the concerned employees that their wages are now usually deposited after many days of the affected month.
Whatever the realities might entail, the OAGF must take into cognizance that they are dealing with a set of individuals who are widely believed in the society to possess high degree of intelligence, knowledge, as well as sense of ingenuity and technicalities. It is, therefore, needless and preposterous to notify the authority that they are really treading on a snake’s tail, hence needs a rethink. Think about it!
Comrade Nwaozor is policy analyst &rights activist national coordinator, Rights Thinkers Movement.