By James Emejo
President Goodluck Jonathan has directed all federal universities to adopt and implement the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) by November this year or risk stoppage of salaries.
The Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Jonah Otunla, dropped the hint in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, during the commencement of a sensitisation workshop on IPPIS for management staff of federal universities in the South-south region.
He said: “President Goodluck Jonathan in October last year directed that by November 30, all machineries be put in motion to make sure that the education sector-the polytechnics and universities are brought on board the IPPIS.
“Similarly, the National Assembly also passed a resolution because we normally submit reports to them and they passed a resolution mandating the president to ensure that IPPIS solution was deployed to all government agencies.
“Based on that resolution passed to the president by the National Assembly, the president set up a committee headed by the Vice President to bring in all para-military agencies and even the military on the IPPIS platform.”
Meanwhile, all federal polytechnics are to follow suit in the implementation of IPPIS, which is meant to enhance budgeting and planning processes and ensure data integrity, as well as facilitate prompt and timely payment of staff salaries.
Otunla said the federal government was aware of the constraints and peculiarities of the university system, stressing that bringing the universities on board the IPPIS would not rob them of their responsibility to hire and fire.
There is a general anxiety that IPPIS may erode the autonomy of universities to take certain actions including the powers to engage critical services and remunerate such without seeking approval. There are also fears that the scheme could slash staff benefits.
Represented by the Director of Finance and Coordinator IPPIS, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mrs. Fatima Nana Mede, the AGF said the federal government would on March 18 meet with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Abuja in a bid to further address perceived apprehension to the implementation of IPPIS in the ivory towers.
Otunla also noted that the preliminary interactions had become necessary, in order to take into account various reservations and requirements from the university community, so as to make adjustment to the software solution used to operate the scheme.
Speaking at the occasion, Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian federal universities, Prof. Kimse Okoko, noted that since the federal government pays all university staff salaries, it has the right to know the actual number of employees on its payroll.
But he noted that there had been some nagging issues around the introduction of IPPIS in the universities because some sections of the academia are not at home with the scheme.
Okoko said he was particularly comfortable with the huge amount of money reportedly saved from its implementation in other public institutions but warned that the programme may not record the anticipated success in the universities if the institutions are not carried along in the preparation and implementation stages of the scheme.
He said all interests including that of staff unions needed to be addressed if the scheme must succeed.
The Vice-chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof. (Mrs.) Comfort Memfin Ekpo, said negative aspect occasioned by the recent monetisation policy was a cogent reason for the seeming apprehension of the universities’ staff unions, some of which were yet to receive their entitlements.
She argued that government must guarantee that people would work and get paid under the proposed scheme for it to succeed.
Also, Vice-chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Joseph Ajienka, said the IPPIS should have no opposition from the universities if all identified worries are adequately addressed.
He, however, wondered why the universities had recently become the most investigated institutions in the country.
Presently, 27 ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs) are said to be on trial payroll while 292 core MDAs are on IPPIS.
As at February this year, about 252,095 employees had joined the scheme, 226,984 of them are active employees while some employees have been placed on suspension for the past six months for providing incorrect details about themselves.