The Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Jonah Otunla, yesterday assured the academic community that the planned implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) in the ivory towers would not in anyway infringe on their autonomy.
Speaking at the opening of a sensitisation programme for the management staff of the South-east universities, he said the introduction of IPPIS would not only facilitate budgeting and planning processes but also ensure data integrity and facilitate storage and update of staff information as well as convenient staff remuneration.
He said: “Government wants to know the number of staff so as to know how to plan for them.”
However, he said given the peculiar working environment of the academia, the current payroll solution for universities may have to be amended to accommodate such peculiarities.
Represented by the Director of Finance and Coordinator (IPPIS), Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mrs. Fatima Nana Mede, the AGF noted that the sensitisation workshop had become crucial in other to entertain the concerns of staff in tertiary institutions who fear that their autonomy may be eroded by the introduction of IPPIS.
He noted that 212,750 employees of government are currently on the IPPIS platform, adding that government had begun moves to bring on board the remaining 22 agencies of government, which had not yet joined the scheme.
Ahe said: “The project started in 2006 with a pilot of seven MDAs and the seven MDAs. Today, we have 292 MDAs on the platform and we currently pay total of 212,750 employees on the platform, which means at every point in time as son as salaries are paid, 212,000 employees get their salaries direct.
“We now have just 22 MDAs left including the inversions, poly technics and colleges of education and the reason being that the educational system has some peculiarities that are different from those peculiarities of core civil servants. The purpose of this sensitization is that we had a meeting with the university management for the past two years but we realised there are still gaps that need to be filled.
“It is in this regard that we decided that it is appropriate for us to meet the management of all federal universities with the view to taking on board their requirement.”
Essentially, the IPPIS is a new innovation of the federal government to weed its workforce of ghost worker and enhance efficient personnel cost planning and budgeting by de-emphasizing on estimation of personnel costs and utilising verifiable statistics.
But there has been a general anxiety by university staff particularly the unions, which see the move as a ploy to remove the power of hiring and firing staff from the universities.
Speaking at the sensitisation forum, Vice-Chancellor of FUTO, Prof. Chigozie Asiabaka, said a major concern for the institutions was the likely erosion of its administrative powers by government.
He said: “IPPIS is something that has been thorny anytime we talk about it at the VC meeting because of our uniqueness of the university system. The sensitization should not end at the VC level, the unions and the staff must be part of it. People don’t like change because it is always very difficult to implement change.
“We have just came out of six months industrial strike and we won’t like to go into it again. The university must be there irrespective of changes but we will continue to work with government. The issue is that there are apprehensions because of the nature of the universities. The universities are known for their peculiar nature of academic excellence.
According to him: “We need to enough people at any moment and if a have a good staff anywhere in the world I will hire him without anybody having to authorise me so here is an apprehension that maybe when we enter into IPPIS it may not be possible to do that. So we feel that anything that is being done should be in tandem with the autonomy of the university so that at the end of it all no part of the system will be short-changed.”
In the same vein, the Vice-Chancellor, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Prof. Hilary Odo Edeoga, said the apprehension of staff over the adoption of IPPIS stemmed from the irregularities observers in the monetisation programme of past administration where most workers were yet to receive their benefits till date.
Specifically, he said while the university authorities may be willing to adopt the scheme, the major problem lied with the various unions who are still skeptical of government’s intentions which they further viewed as trying to slash the allowances and benefits as well as erode certain powers from the universities.
He made a donation of N2 million to the students who lost their belongings to take care of their immediate needs and invited the school principal and the PTA chairman to come to his office to discuss further ways government could assist the school overcome its accommodation problem.
Earlier the chairman of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), Mr. Gabriel Nnaji, told the governor that the FGGC Umuahia was facing a lot of pressure in accommodation due to explosion in student population as insurgency in the north has forced parents to relocate.