The federal government on Monday said it was deliberately misled by the managements of some Nigerian universities into paying salaries to some deceased members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) through the Integrated Personnel Payroll system (IPPIS).
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, was reacting to ASUU’s criticism of the IPPIS and accusations that the government ended up paying dead members of the union.
The official said the affected university managements were to be blamed as they sent in lists containing deceased personnel for payment.
He also said ASUU was engaging in “cheap propaganda to denigrate IPPIS for obvious reasons.”
The official equally gave reasons why some lecturers did not receive salaries paid to them recently through the banks.
ASUU has been opposed to the implementation of the IPPIS as it argues it does not take into consideration its unique operations. This has led to confrontations between it and the Nigerian government over the last few months.
Mr Idris, in a statement, on Monday, said the government was misled into paying deceased ASUU staff.
He then accused the authorities of the unnamed universities of fraud.
“On the alleged payment to dead university staff, it means the Institutions deliberately forwarded to IPPIS the list containing dead ASUU members as being part of their personnel, to get more personnel fund,” Mr Idris said.
“When President directed that ASUU be paid, the OAGF sent a letter, through NUC Executive Secretary, requesting for the list of ASUU members through their VCs. We run BVN (Bank Verification Number) test on the list forwarded to us as we are aware that we cannot use the old nominal roll because of changes that might have likely taken place.
“It is the responsibility of the Institutions or Agencies to inform the IPPIS office about death, resignation or exit from service before due date. We sent payroll analysis to the tertiary institution Bursars for review of any omission or names to be excluded.
“This issue is a cheap propaganda by ASUU to denigrate IPPIS for obvious reasons,” Mr Idris added.
The statement did not add what the government was doing to rectify the payment errors or if there would be sanctions for managements of such universities.
‘Non-receipt of paid salaries’
On why some lecturers did not receive their salaries,Mr Idris blamed it on lack of uniformity between the names in banks’ databases and on the payrolls sent by the institutions.
He said “since salary payment through the IPPIS platform was personal and does not recognise joint accounts operated by two or more persons, about 1,180 Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) sent for validation and confirmation of account details failed the test and were rejected.”
Those not paid, he said, were lecturers who failed to update their bank details to conform with their names on the payroll, “including those who got married.”
On the request by ASUU for tertiary institution workers’ unions to be exempted from certain taxes through IPPIS, Mr Idris said granting such a request would violate the extant laws on tax.
Recently, some university workers lamented what they said were huge deductions from their salaries when the salaries were paid using the IPPIS.
But, the accountant general said the deductions were statutory taxes paid by all salary earners.
He said the IPPIS applied the correct rate in computing the taxes in compliance with Section 34 of the 6th schedule on personal income tax (Amendment) Act of 2011.
Giving more insight to the issue, Mr Idris said prior to the migration to IPPIS, the rate of tax applied by tertiary institutions was not correct, leading to underpayment of PAYE Tax.
As a result, he said, all state governments filed claims to the federal government to pay the differential that arose from the underpayment of tax by those institutions.
He said the federal government has “since paid several billions on behalf of those institutions to the state governments.”
Also, he said the deduction of 2.5 per cent of basic salary for the National Housing Fund (NHF) is another statutory contribution backed by the Act of National Assembly, “which the lecturers cannot be exempted from.”
The Fund, he said, is a saving contribution by all federal employees to enable them have access to short life loans to own their personal houses.
These savings contributions, he said, are refundable with interest either at retirement or exit from service as an employee of the federal government.
Mr Idris said it was unlawful for ASUU to request that those laws should not be applicable to its members, or the deductions made optional for them.
“The request for breach of Act of Parliament is not within the ambit of the IPPIS or the OAGF,” Mr Idris said. .
He said ASUU has already been advised to approach the National Assembly for amendment of the Act before their request could be considered.
On the 7.5 per cent deduction for employees’ pension contributions, Mr Idris faulted ASUU’s claims that it should be based on basic salary and not on consolidated salary.
He said the consolidated salary was applicable when determining the contributions of all federal employees by the Salaries Income and Wages Commission (SIWC).
The actual amount contributed by the employee, he explained, determines what the government also contributes in line with the Pension Contributory Act.
On payment of allowances, Mr Idris said it is based on the salary structure approved by the SIWC.
Consequently, Mr Idris said the university unions have been advised to approach the commission to formalise any agreement approved for them on salaries and allowances.
“This is because the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (SIWC) is the only body authorised by law to prescribe salary structure and issue circulars for all federal government employees in Nigeria.
“Besides, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation And Fiscal Commission is the sister body authorised by law to issue circular on payment of salary and allowances to political office holders,” he said.
He said any other salaries and allowances approved by any other agency in Nigeria which are not formalised by these two agencies will amount to illegal payments.
On payment to sabbatical and adjunct lecturers, the official said these categories of lecturers are duly recognised by IPPIS.
However, he said this was dependent on the submission of the particulars of the affected lecturers, including their IPPIS number, primary institution, the start date of the sabbatical or the visiting and the end date.
While all staff on sabbatical are entitled to 100 per cent of their salaries as sabbatical allowances, he said visiting and adjunct lecturers would get 50 per cent of their salaries as visiting allowance.
He said the government would no longer incur unnecessary expenditure on pension, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), “or such allowances that are not part of universities pensionable salaries.”
On the 2 per cent deduction from consolidated salary as union dues, Mr Idris said this was done to save the government “from being accused of denying ASUU their dues.”
He, however, said the remittance of union deductions could only be legally made when the tertiary institutions and their union members forward the list of their members and their IPPIS numbers.
Describing as unfair, the accusation that IPPIS was withholding funds deducted from lecturers’ salaries, Mr Idris said until January 2020, the tertiary institutions were in charge of the payment of their salaries.
He said considering that the IPPIS commenced the payment of salaries to tertiary institution in February 2020, the
tertiary institutions “owed their staff explanations why they refused to pay them up to January 2020.”
Their refusal, he noted, contravened the presidential directive that all consequential arrears due to federal employees be paid on or before December 31, 2019.