By Oluwagbemileke Takuro
It is no news that the federal government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are always at loggerheads. After several months of both parties going back and forth on several issues, the union finally spoke up once again about discarding the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) payment system that the federal government came up with some years ago and have proposed what they consider more favorable to them – University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
IPPIS is a payroll system that was said to have been designed in such a way that government employees have their accurate salaries and wages paid directly into each person’s bank account, with the aim of eliminating issues like delay in payment and ghost workers. It also enables deduction of fees to prevent civilians from bypassing payment of taxes and other third party payments like those of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
This was discussed extensively in a meeting with ASUU and FG in 2014, where both teams agreed to select representatives to help look deeper into the suggested payroll system because the Union had reservations about it. It was also agreed that an alternative system should be suggested if the Union decided not to embrace IPPIS. The FG did not send their representatives as discussed so an agreement wasn’t reached. It was not until 2019 that President Muhammadu Buhari instructed members of ASUU to enrol in IPPIS.
Left with no choice, the members of the Union had to go through the strenuous process of enrolling in IPPIS with the hope that this will put an end to delay in payment of salaries. It didn’t take long before this hope came crashing down as many staff that belong to the Union still have pending salaries. For some who were paid, there was variation in the amount paid monthly.
The failure of the IPPIS to curb the union members’ salary issues was one of the many reasons the union embarked on its most recent indefinite strike that began on the 23rd of March 2020. As at May 2020, President Buhari gave a directive that all those who are yet to receive their salaries should be paid but up until now many staff account are yet to be credited.
Salaries are slashed, Agreements with FG discarded, Allowances removed, some FTI staff are not paid, Minimum Wage Arrears not paid; all these happened when @IPPIS was brought to FTIs since February, 2020.#IPPIS
@FinMinNigeria @nigeria_tracker, @NGRSenate, @GarShehu @femigbaja
— Federal Tertiary Institutions of Nigeria (@FTIStaffNg) August 6, 2020
The Union has realized that rather than the IPPIS being a solution to one of the recurring problems of ASUU members, it is enabling corruption without producing a change in salary issues. ASUU has decided to go ahead with developing an alternative system of payment – the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS). The UTAS was described by the ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, as a system of payment which unlike the IPPIS has payment activities being coordinated and adequately monitored by select officials of both FG and ASUU.
This will help to uphold universities autonomy and ensure transparency exists with better results. It seems this decision will be backed up by Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) as both parties have expressed their disapproval concerning the anomalies associated with IPPIS and are ready to embark on strike if FG fails to listen to their pleas once tertiary institutions re-open.
IPPIS is designed to uncover ghost workers & block financial waste. Instead of reporting their findings, the staff connive with organizations to cover up what couldn’t be accounted for. Appointments are sold in broad daylight to fill up spaces. Corruption is now with confidence
— bash trademark (@zabashire) August 10, 2020
ASUU has also taken it upon itself to fund the development of this alternative payroll system and are ready to spring into action once the federal government agrees to employ this system of payment. Once the government grants the union its desires concerning the payment system, that’s when they will be ready to forge ahead to settle other issues that led to its four months and counting indefinite strike. It seems like the government’s response to the proposed UTAS will play an important role in determining if ASUU will consider ending its strike, thereby allowing students of public tertiary institutions in Nigeria to continue with their education after being delayed for months.
IPPIS has failed to change the narrative of delayed payment of complete wages and salaries of ASUU members. This has caused them to come up with a supposedly transparent system, the UTAS, of which the fate of its implementation lies in the hands of FG – the creators of condemned IPPIS.