IPPIS, ASUU and academic transparency – Part 2
Specifically, the mission of IPPIS is to pay FGN employees on-time and accurately within statutory and contractual obligations IPPIS Vision is to have a centralised payroll system that meet the needs of FGN employees and helps the Government to plan and manage payroll budget by ensuring proper control. Even as we are made aware of the aforementioned, another plank of the debate against the continuation or implementation of the IPPIS in the Federal University system as canvassed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities is that the scheme has been hijacked by some forces bent on perpetuating fraud. The Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) described the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as a “tunnel created to siphon government resources.” In a statement recently in Akure, the ASUU branch chairman, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Dr. Olayinka Awopetu, claimed IPPIS was “a weapon of fraud and corruption.”
For me as a Nigerian Civil Rights Advocacy expert, I think this criticism of Academic Staff Union of Universities can be likened to attempting to throw the baby with the bathwater. The allegation of some human errors which they are alleging are not substantial enough to override the primary objective for which the IPPIS was set up. In fact, the reason for asking the University workers to come on board and support the implementation is basically because of the need for all hands to be in deck to be able to trace some or all of these imperfections and human errors so as to try to fix the missing links and to make the implementation better and much more transparent and accountable going forward. Vanguard, one of the respected mainstream national newspapers has provided a great deal of resolutions that have taken care of the fears and anxieties of the Academic Staff Union of Universities regarding the desirability and functionality of the IPPIS with specific reference to bringing the payment of salaries and emolument under the system.
In a recent editorial, the newspaper wrote thus: “The Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, the Bank Verification Number, BVN, and the Treasury Single Account, TSA, were technology-based instruments to fight corruption and money laundering at source and sanitise government spending. In January 2020 Buhari directed that any Federal Government employee who refuses to register with the IPPIS should no longer be paid.” Vanguard recalls that this was the cause of the strike that the Academic Union of the Nigerian Universities, ASUU, embarked upon before the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns began in March.
It said: “We still stand by the Federal Government in insisting that all personnel on its payroll must be on that scheme because of our conviction that it is easier and cheaper to nip corruption at source than to chase after thieves after they have taken the people’s money for their own use. Apparently, the university lecturers are not the only ones seeking to torpedo the system. The Federal Government has received several hints from within the armed forces about efforts being made by senior military officers to pull the military out of the scheme, which so far has been resisted.” Importantly, it must be srayed that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, OAGF, penultimate week raised alarm over alleged attempts by unnamed individuals to sabotage the IPPIS by capitalising on the delayed payment of the military’s April salary. The OAGF disclosed that IPPIS has saved the Federal Government N361bn ($1bn), which is money that would have been pocketed by corrupt civil servants”.
This writer agrees holistically with the views expressed by this national paper and to add that the debate by ASUU looks like that aforementioned debate on the primacy between Egg and the chicken. If ASUU says they will not accept the payment system because of the underlying issue of autonomy which I have debunked earlier and also secondly because of the imperfections in the system and at the same time the Academia ought to be amongst the frontlines of the crusades against corruption and abuse of Office, it therefore follows that the entire debate should be resolved in favour of what best serve the public good which basically is the necessity and the imperative of mainstreaming a system of administration of public finance that captures the strategic goal of promotion of the principles and practices of transparency and accountability.
IPPIS therefore stands POLES apart as the best way to manage the public resources transparently. The Nigerian Government should also create the enabling environment to allow for an open process of monitoring of the implementation stages of the IPPIS with a view to eradicating to the bearest minimum the cases of corruption. I call on the Academic Staff Union of Universities to partner actively with the Federal government of Nigeria to work out seamless ways of ensuring that salaries are not paid to ghost workers. IPPIS is a global platform that advanced economies have since adopted to check financial malpractice. I quote from a recent write up done by a University teacher in which he says and I think I am saying the same although not absolutely the same since unlike me he is an insider and he states that: “I write this piece to expose, as an insider, (I’m not an insider but with extensive sources within the university system) the realities of Academics in Nigeria towards rescuing the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) from the asphyxiation of ASUU and redirect ASUU to the path of patriotism.”
“ASUU should be humble enough to accept that we are not paid for certificates acquired, but we are paid to do our job of teaching, impactful research and community services within and outside the university with utmost professionalism and integrity and without fear or favour. If we say the truth, every Nigerian graduate has one or more lecturers that taught him/her that he/she wondered, and is still wondering, how the lecturer got thus far, even to the peak. I mean Professors! Maybe I am one of those lecturers, but it is high time we said the truth. Besides, many of the excellent students could not come into academics because we are guilty of what we accuse FGN – nepotism and tribalism” (Prof. Godspower Ekuobase, PhD, MCPN. Professor of Services Computing Department of Computer Science University of Benin, Benin City Edo State, Nigeria).
Onwubiko is Head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.