When the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) was introduced in 2007, it came as a department under the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, with the responsibility of salary payments directly into employees’ accounts. It’s also to make deductions of third party payments such as: Federal Inland Revenue Service, State Boards of Internal Revenue, National Housing Fund, Pension Fund Administrator, Cooperative Societies, Trade Unions Dues, Association Dues and Bank Loans and remit them into the Federation Account.
As at 2017, the Agency has 459 MDAs on its platform and over 300, 000 federal workers from all the MDAs on its payroll. The objective is to curtail the prevalence of ghost workers in federal level and deduct due taxes from the workers and the MDAs.
The process has enabled the federal government to save about N400 billion within the years, a result that has encouraged IPPIS to integrate more federal agencies into its system. It is therefore in a bid to enroll more employees into the system that a disagreement ensued between them and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
ASUU has a claim that putting university lecturers into IPPIS platform will undermine the autonomy of the universities, and it is not something they are ready to see happen yet. Like in some other cases, the university body has had to confront the decisions of the Federal Government (FG) in matters relating to them and their constitutional autonomy.
This time, the FG is not ready to balk. President Buhari said that any worker who is not on the IPPIS payroll will not receive his salary effective 31st of October. So the rift between the FG and ASUU was birthed, and it is surrounded by the perception that there is a dubious intent by the Academic Union, and the controversy may likely affect the academic activities of the universities.
In an emergency meeting called by ASUU earlier in the month, the university body urged its members to mobilize for a strike action in protest against the proposed inclusion into IPPIS. ASUU’s zonal coordinator, Abuja zone, Theophilus Lagi, said that Government’s plan will only result in mutating academics into mainstream civil service.
“There is no clear and convincing evidence that IPPIS can capture remuneration of staff on sabbatical, external examiners, external assessors, and Earned Academic Allowance. The IPPIS does not and cannot cater for the constant movement of staff in the cases of visiting, adjunct, and part-time,” he said.
Lagi also noted that IPPIS will constitute many problems for the universities bordering on recruitment of staff for new programmes and replacing them. He said newly employed staff cannot be paid unless they are enrolled into IPPIS database.
In another approach, he said that IPPIS lacks the flexibility to address the peculiarities of the university system. Quoting section 2AA of the universities Miscellaneous Provision Act 2003, (as amended), which says that universities should be allowed to operate in compliance with enabling laws, statues, rules and regulations in conformity with due process and within the laws of the land.
“The law establishing each university is an Act of the National Assembly; hence, it cannot be upturned by an executive action or operations of the Office of Accountant General. The office of AGF should note that our members are not answerable to his office but to their respective Governing Councils and that no university in the world operates IPPIS related system,” he said.
The federal government however, has not counted the provision of the law as an excuse to exclude ASUU from IPPIS. The perception has been that the Academic Union has unclean closet, therefore, it is doing all it can to keep it closed.
The opinion of observers has also been the same: In the wake of time where thousands of ghost workers have been uncovered through IPPIS, ASUU’s resistance appears more cynical than just.
It is believed that in the present system of payments in the universities, a corrupt Dean could easily create as many ghost workers as he can. Moreover, ASUU seems more like an employee of the federal government, who only should accept the terms of payment offered by her employer.
The unflinching determination of ASUU and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is only escalating the rift. The OAGF has taken the campaign to polytechnic lecturers seeking their cooperation while ASUU, apart from their decision to go on strike, has taken the matter to the National Assembly.
If on Wednesday, the federal government keeps to its word and ASUU keep to their decision, academic activities will once again suffer the consequences of the tussle. There needs to be a consensus to avoid another strike in our universities.
Image: unrelated image of ASUU deliberation few months ago