ASUU, NITDA and integrity of UTAS payment platform
Nigerians were alarmed by the reports that the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) created by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) failed three integrity tests.
ASUU’s preferred payment option was created as an alternative to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) that the Federal Government uses to pay its workers in various sectors of the economy.
More than 700 ministries, agencies in Nigeria are on the IPPIS platform, but ASUU insists on being the only stand out which the government is trying to accommodate.
The intergrity test verdict was announced the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the organ with the statutory mandate to superintend over technologies and digital advancements.
The Director General, Kashifu Inuwa, after presenting the agency’s findings to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), highlighted points about UTAS that should get concerned citizens thinking of possible way(s) to resolve concerns raised in order to get university teachers back to the classrooms.
The NITDA boss informed journalists that users’ acceptance test is key to the functionality of the UTAS, a test which the platform failed during trials at some Bursary and Finance Departments.
“When you’re building system, it’s not just about the technology, you need to consider the people that will use the system and the process. If you don’t align people, process and technology, you will never get result.
“No matter how good the technology is, if the people don’t understand how to use it, they won’t use it. And if the process is different from the way the people work, also, they won’t use it”, Kashifu said.
Frankly speaking, this point is elementary knowledge for basic communication students as propounded by the diffusion of innovation theory.
Secondly, the DG explained that the UTAS failed to meet requirement standards in testing for vulnerability. He projected the risks the platform would face, considering it is a financial system.
The fact that UTAS is vulnerable means an open window for looters and certified kleptos to latch on and swindle Nigeria’s dry.
It is important to note that ASUU is yet to reveal the data center where its system would be installed. As Kashifu stressed, the technology must be durable to avoid collapse due to overload.
“You can build a system on your laptop or on a small computer, use it, but when you put so many data it will crash. We need to do the stress test to make sure that system can do”, the official said.
NITDA submitted its report to the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Pantami, who forwarded the same to relevant institutions, including ASUU.
As the news trickled in, eyebrows raised and daggers drawn along the line of sentiments and myopic deductions, especially by those who only read headlines without the content.
Sadly, even ASUU condescended to the level of pathetic bickering when its president, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, wholesomely faulted Kashifu’s comments and spewed derogatory remarks about Pantami.
Osodeke accused NITDA of giving a misleading report on UTAS to the FEC, claiming that UTAS passed an integrity test with 77% and passed an end-user test with 88%.
“If you subject this to a test today, we will have 99%. But they went ahead to tell the country a lie and this is why they are creating problems”, he stated.
It is curious that ASUU, which did not raise the alarm when it received the report from the Minister, turned defensive after the integrity of their product was publicly questioned.
Since the NITDA and ASUU have made claims and counterclaims on UTAS, there is a need to make clarifications to Nigerians in the ensuing imbroglio. Both parties should appear on a debate and trash out the contentious issues in public glare.
This is a challenge whose gauntlet must be picked up by the truth bearers as the discourse will avail citizens the opportunity to know who is playing with their intelligence, as well as make better and informed judgements.
Badmus is a member of the Network of Advocates for Digital Reporting (NADIR) and Staff Writer with TechDigest.