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ASUU, FG talks suffer setback

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ASUU National President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi Photo: Premium Times/ Azeezat Adedigba

As NASU, SSANU reject ASUU’s UTAS, unveil own payment platform
• ‘IPPIS has beneficiaries in and outside government, it should be investigated’

Indications from ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), is unlikely to yield positive result soon. 

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The Guardian gathered yesterday in Abuja that while ASUU insists on using its indigenous platform – University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS) – to pay its members or simply return teaching staff to the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), the government insisted that UTAS is not going to be feasible in the next six months. It also ruled out a return to GIMFIS, saying the platform has been dismantled.  

This has now formed a stumbling block to the conclusion of the agreement, as this is the only area of disagreement between the two parties. 

In the meantime, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions (NASU) said it will not accept the payment of its members via the ASUU platform.

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The General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi told The Guardian yesterday in Abuja that UTAS is not known to the union and its Senior Staff Association of Universities (SSANU).

Adeyemi revealed that both unions have developed their own payment platform named, ‘University General Peculiar Payroll Payment System (UGPPPS)’ which takes the peculiarities of non-teaching staffers into consideration. 

He submitted that both NASU and SSANU will resist the imposition of UTAS on their members. 

Adeyemi added: “We are aware that ASUU desires to have its own platform. We are warning that if the ASUU platform will be used to pay staffers in the universities, none of our members should be paid using that platform by the Federal Government. The reason for this is that we were not privy to how the system was developed. If the Federal Government will completely take off IPPIS from the universities and wants to use the ASUU platform, then they will use the ASUU platform for ASUU members while the government will use our own platform for our members.” 

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He argued further that it will be ironic and unjust for the Federal Government to use the ASUU platform to pay NASU and SSANU members when they were a part of the building of the platform from the beginning.

He provided the factors that informed the formation of its platform: “The payment system was designed by both NASU and SSANU to replace IPPIS if IPPIS continues to have the problem it is having. The essence of that is that if IPPIS is unable to rectify the anomalies we have witnessed in the past eight months, which we cannot continue to live with, then our platform will be a substitute.” 

The NASU scribe noted that the union is ready to cooperate with the government in its bid to rid corruption in the payment system in the ivory towers.  

He stated that it will be premature to declare IPPIS a failure at this point, saying, “It will not be fair to declare IPPIS as a complete failure at this point especially when the time given has not elapsed. I will not start to condemn them now. NASU stands on that agreement. If after the timeline, the problem continues, then NASU will speak to Nigerians on the matter.” 

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Adeyemi disclosed that most of the members of NASU and SSANU have joined IPPIS while those who are yet to enroll have been enjoined to join.  

On whether UGPPPS has been subjected to integrity test yet, Adeyemi said: “Well, we do not know about any integrity test. The Federal Government told us to put appropriate government agencies on notice concerning our platform and we have done that. The approval for payment has stages and we know that ASUU did not get its own tested the day it was developed. We have developed our own as well. We went into IPPIS believing that as responsible and obedient Nigerians who want to join the government to enthrone transparency in the system, we should cooperate. But if the Federal Government wants every employee to develop a payment platform through, which he or she should be paid salaries and other payments, we are ready for that because our own platform is ready to take on the challenge.”

At the resumed negotiation yesterday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige appealed to ASUU to meet the government somewhere saying the strike is doing no one no good. 

The Guardian learned that the reluctance of government stemmed from the belief that unions might begin to clamour for individual payment platform, which the unfolding scenario seems to have proven. 

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With the private investors running IPPIS, it is feared that IPPIS might collapse if the current opposition to the platform is sustained. 

IPPIS was conceptualized in October 2006 by the Federal Government as one of its Reform Programme, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the storage of personnel records and administration of monthly payroll in such a way to enhance confidence in staff emolument costs and budgeting.

It was also envisaged that the System will be implemented according to best practices obtainable in other parts of the world where Information Communication Technology (ICT) is used to improve management reporting.

The Pilot Phase implementation financed by the World Bank commenced in February 2006 at the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) upon the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC)

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While the project went live in April 2007 with seven Pilot MDAs, its management was transferred to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) in October 2008.        

Having seen the benefits of the Scheme especially in the area of savings to the Government, the Federal Executive Council in its meeting on Wednesday 1st December 2010 approved the enrolment of all MDAs that draw their Personnel Cost from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). 

The Phase II Service-wide implementation commenced under the platform of a new Software called Oracle Application in September 2011 in batches and is being financed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. 

Also, on the 5th November 2006, the Federal Government through the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) signed a World Bank-sponsored $4.9 million contracts with the SystemSpecs Consortium to provide an Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) in the public sector. The Systempecs comprise Impact, Interglobal, and Telnet. 

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The Guardian gathered that being a private sector-led initiative, those in the corridors of power and those that pushed for the acceptance of IPPIS from 2006 may be the sole beneficiaries. Sources that are in the know say the position of ASUU that there is no need for its members to be pushed into IPPIS before migrating to UTAS should be looked at beyond the surface. 
Perhaps more suspicious is the insistence of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation that the GIMFIS been disbanded when the reverse is the case also raises strong suspicion. 

Indeed, Adeyemi also faulted the claim by IPPIS office that the initiative has saved the Federal Government billions of Naira. 

He said: “The claim that the IPPIS has saved the Federal Government billions of Naira is not entirely true. I say this because when the correct salaries and other commitments are not fulfilled, why won’t the IPPIS claim it is saving money for government? We can say it is saving money for the government only when all the legitimate payments are made and we still have a surplus. That is the only time we can reach a conclusion but for now, it is still hasty to make such a conclusion.”

Apart from this observation, it has learned that labour unions in the education sector may call for the auditing of IPPIS performances since its inception 14 years ago.

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