The Federal Government on Thursday described the opposition of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as misplaced.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who stated this at the budget defence secession organised by the Senate Committee on Finance in Abuja, insisted that no government agency must resist it.
The lecturers’ union is opposed to the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, who at the 2020 budget presentation in the National Assembly on October 8, ordered that all public sector workers to register for the IPPIS to save cost and fight corruption.
ASUU had on Monday insisted that the IPPIS negated the law on university autonomy.
But the Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, countered ASUU, saying its position was an endorsement of corruption.
The IPPIS, which was introduced in 2007, is aimed at centralising payroll and payment systems, facilitating convenient staff remuneration with minimal wastage as well as aiding manpower training and budgeting.
On Thursday, the Finance Minister, Ahmed, faulted ASUU, saying no government agency must resist the IPPIS.
She said, “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 and some medical institutions have some peculiarities.
“For instance, a medical officer in the public service 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 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,” the Minister maintained.
Mrs. Ahmed further disclosed that the IPPIS had been extremely beneficial because the Federal Government had been able to save up to about N250bn from the exercise.
She claimed, “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 worker retires from the service, the system will automatically log him out.
“At the moment, we await instructions before we log out retired workers. Some people have retired but they are still on the payroll.
“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.
“So far, we have been able to put most Federal Government agencies on the platform. It helps us to control those that were not supposed to be on the payroll,” Ahmed stated.
According to her, only few tertiary institutions that are still resisting the IPPIS. She, however, said government was discussing with such institutions.
But more chapters of ASUU on Thursday opposed the IPPIS.
ASUU Coordinator in Abuja, Prof. Theophilus Lagi, at a news conference in Gwagwalada, explained that lack of flexibility in the IPPIS had made it inappropriate to address the peculiarity in the university system.
Lagi said there was no clear and convincing evidence that the IPPIS could capture remuneration of staff on sabbatical, external examiners and earned academic allowance.
According to him, IPPIS will constitute an impediment in the ability of universities to recruit staff for new programmes as well as replace newly employed staff until they are enrolled into IPPIS data base.
He 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.”
Also, the union’s Coordinator in Lagos Zone, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, during a press conference at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, said the policy was not acceptable to the union.
Sowande noted that it was important for the Federal Government to consider the peculiarities of the universities and their enabling laws before such decisions could be made.
He added that universities operated differently from the civil service and should, therefore, not be seen as appendages of ministries, departments and agencies of government.
Sowande said, “In addition to the Act establishing each university, there is the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act, 2003.
“The Act states in Section 2(A) that the power of the council shall be exercised as in the laws and statutes of each university and to that extent, the establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the laws and statutes of the university shall not apply to the university.
“IPPIS will not recognise nor adequately capture the flexibility and peculiarities of the university system in terms of replacement/recruitment of staff,” he said.
Sowande explained that ASUU believed that the Presiden would not violate his oath of office, but would rather abide by the constitution and the law of the land.
He added that the union was not opposed to accountability and transparency in handling public funds.
The ASUU chairman further explained that the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had no business in superintending over or introducing any financial control or cost saving measure in the university.
Sowande argued that such power and responsibilities were vested in the governing council of each university.
In his reaction to the controversy, ASUU Chairman, University of Lagos, Dr Dele Ashiru, said that the introduction of the IPPIS was a total a violation of the constitution.