Why we oppose implementation of IPPIS in Universities – ASUU
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has opposed implementation of Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System at federal universities because it violated the laws setting up the universities.
Read the full presentation of ASUU at an interactive session on enrolment of Federal universities into the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) at the Idris Abdul-Kadir Auditorium NIIC, Abuja, on Tuesday, 8th October, 2019).
“Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) hereby presents the case for its position that the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) should not be run within the university system in Nigeria.
“Our position is summarized under the following headings:
• IPPIS and Violation of University Autonomy
• Peculiarities, nature and structure of Nigerian Universities
• Federal Government’s Agreements with ASUU
• The foreseeable consequences of IPPIS
Proposals and Conclusion
IPPIS AND VIOLATION OF UNIVERSITY AUTONOMY
The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) violates University Autonomy. It contradicts the principle of the superiority of the Governing Council in the control and management of university funds, and employment and promotion of staff.
Universities all over the world have a tradition of independence and complete separation from the structure of the civil service.
The attempt to bring Nigerian Universities under a general practice that is meant for the civil service will not only undermine University Autonomy; it will also infringe on Academic Freedom, and consequently retard the efforts of our Country to develop the much sought-after knowledge-based economy.
In particular, ASUU would like to draw the attention of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to the Principle of University Autonomy as enshrined in section 2AA of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Act 2003 which states: The powers of the Council shall be exercised, as in the Latv and Statutes of each university and to that extent, establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the Laws and Statutes of the university shall not apply to the universities.
Also, Section 2AAA of the same Act states:(1) The Governing Council of a University shall be free in the discharge of its functions and exercise of its responsibilities for the comnlon management, growth and development of the university.
(2) The Council of a university in the discharge of its functions shall ensure that disbursement of funds of the university complies with the approved budgetary ratio for:
(a) Personnel costs; (b) Overhead costs; (c) Research and development; (d) Library development; and (e) The balance in expenditure between academic vis-a-vis non-academic activities.
For example, the 1992 Act of the University of Abuja expressly states in Section 6: Functions of the Council and its Finance and General Purposes Committee:
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act relating to the Visitor, the Council shall be the governing body of each university and shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finance and property of the university including its public relations.
(2) There shall be a committee of the Council to be known as the Finance and General Purposes Committee, tvhich shall, subject to the directions of the Council, exercise control over the property and expenditure of the university and perform such other functions of the Council as the Council may, from time to time, delegate to it.
It is clear from this provision that the circular from the OAGF directing the implementation of IPPIS violates the provisions of the Establishment Act of this university (and all other Federal Universities).
It is noteworthy that, contrary to the Law expressly backing the Governing Councils of each Federal University to exercise full control over the finances of the universities, IPPIS lacks constitutional backing; neither is it supported by any Act of the National Assembly.
The proposed forceful enrollment of staff of Universities in the IPPIS will amount to subjecting the universities to the direction and control of OAGF with respect to the payment of staff remunerations- salaries and wages/ allowances, etc.
The OAGF has no constitutional or legal backing to so direct the affairs of Universities, the latter being creations of Statutes via the Acts establishing the Universities.
It should be recalled that the powers of the Auditor General of the Federation to directAudit of Public Accounts as provided under Section 85 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not extend to Statutory Corporations, Commissions, Authorities, Agencies and Bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly.
It is because of this provision that the Auditor-General does not directly audit the accounts of Federal Universities. This is also the case with the OAGF, with payments made to the staff of the Federal Universities through IPPIS.
Neither the constitution nor any Act of the National Assembly confers such powers on the OAGF.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S AGREEMENTS WITH ASUU
In all engagements of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) with the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) since 1992, the criticality of University Autonomy to the efficiency of the Nigerian University System (NUS) has always been emphasized. Paragraph 5.10 of the 1992 FGN/ASUU Agreement states that “It was agreed that the universities should be allowed to operate in compliance with their enabling laws, statutes, rules and regulations in conformity with due process and within the laws of the land.” This position was restated in subsequent agreements.
For instance, under “Powers of Council”, the FGN/ASUU Agreement of 2001 states that the two parties agreed that:
i, The powers of Governing Councils shall be exercised as in the statutes and laws of each University.
ii. Governing Councils shall be left free to exercise their responsibility for good management, growth and development of their respective Universities.iii. All laws that fetter the free operation of Universities, threaten academic freedom, impede free enquiry, constrain the exercise of initiative, smother imagination, obstruct the pursuit of truth, and violate constitutionally guaranteed rights, shall be abrogated.
Circulars from ministries shall be deemed invalid to the extent that they are inconsistent with the Laws and Regulations of the Universities and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In view of the extant Agreements with the Federal Government, ASUU strongly believes that the best way to review the activities of the Governing Councils and University Administrations is to follow the path laid down in the Law. For instance, Section 14(2) of the University of Abuja Act (1992) states:
The Visitor shall as often as the circumstances may require, not being less than once every five years, conduct a visitation of the University and direct that such a visitation be conducted by such person or persons as the Visitor may deem fit and in respect ofany of the affairs of the University.
To lend additional weight to the use of visitation, the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003 makes it clear that no one, including the Governing Council, should be spared if found wanting by the report of the exercise. Section 2A of the Act specifically declares:
The Council so constituted shall have a tenure of four years from the date of its inauguration provided that where a Council is found to be incompetent or corrupt it shall be dissolved by the Visitor and a new Council shall be immediately constituted for the effective functioning of the University.
For all intents and purposes, therefore, it cannot be said that ASUU’s opposition to IPPIS is an endorsement of corruption in the Nigerian University System. Rather, it is Government’s inaction or failure to implement the outcomes of visitation exercises that is encouraging corruption. In the recent past, successive governments had set up Visitation Panels whose recommendations were never put to effective use.
A clear example is the University of Abuja where a Special Visitation Panel was set up in 2012. ASUU took a special interest in the matter because our Union thought it would send the appropriate warning signals to other universities that were not properly managed. We monitored the processing of the report to the point of the White Paper. Unfortunately, to the chagrin of our Union, nothing came out of the exercise!
PECULIARITIES, NATURE AND STRUCTURE OF NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES
The IPPIS does not capture the peculiarities of the structure of the establishment of the university system, which is flexible and pragmatic. The system does not, for example, capture the remuneration of staff on sabbatical, external examiners, external assessors, and Earned Academic Allowances. It does not address the movement of staff as in the case of visiting, adjunct, part-time, consultancy service, which academics offer across universities in Nigeria.
The universities’ functions of teaching and research are programmed with specific timelines to allow timely graduation of students. The bureaucracy associated with IPPIS, especially as it pertains to the replacement/ recruitment of staff that suddenly become unavailable due to sickness or death or other unforeseen circumstances, will tend to delay the graduation of students.
Furthermore, the timelines in the discharge of university functions may lead to the monetization of annual/ accumulated leave for staff that are unable to enjoy such leave. This is not captured by the IPPIS.The IPPIS cannot address specific processes of promotion of academics; for example, the promotion exercise in the Professorial Cadre, which is subject to external assessment that may last for several months. In such cases, when the outcome of the exercise is returned positive, the beneficiary is paid arrears from the beginning of the assessment process. But this cannot be captured by IPPIS.
The IPPIS does not recognize the 70 years retirement age of academics in the professorial cadre, and 65 years for those in the non-professorial cadre, as against the 60 years in the civil service.
The IPPIS will upset the fragile balance in the utilization of academics across the Nigerian University System. At present, to supplement their shortfall most universities that lack adequate academic staff employ the services of visiting scholars from other universities. This cannot be taken care of by the IPPIS.
The current practice of releasing personnel emoluments on month-by-month basis equally impinges on the capacity of the universities to plan way ahead for the human resources that they require to carry out a vital aspect of quality training of students and research.
Should the IPPIS be forced on the universities, the result will be widespread dissatisfaction among scholars. This will generate brain drain and consequently exacerbate the present shortage of academics currently experienced in the whole system.
THE FORESEEABLE CONSEQUENCES OF IPPIS
Following a recent assessment of the experiences of other MDAs that have implemented IPPIS vis-a-vis the peculiar nature of the universities, ASUU members across different universities still have the following reservations against the imposition of IPPIS on the universities:
1. It will constitute an impediment in the way of the ability of the universities to provide staff for new programmes as well as replace staff. This is because new staff members cannot be paid salaries until they are enrolled into the IPPIS database, which will take months to actualize.
2. The IPPIS system only recognizes staff members that are on permanent and pensionable appointments. Universities are universal in outlook in terms of recruitment of staff and student intake. Non-Nigerian staff are normally employed on contract. Given the IPPIS, universities will face the problem of paying salaries/ allowances of such staff members that are on contract appointments, expatriates, emeritus professors, etc.
3. The IPPIS restricts the ability of universities to employ much needed staff at short notice. Such staff, when recruited, may not be paid until cleared by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).
4. The dynamism associated with staff recruitment will become cumbersome with the introduction of IPPIS.
5. Lecturers in Colleges/ Faculties of Medicine serving as honorary consultants in teaching hospitals and consultants serving as honorary lecturers would face problems collecting their proper remunerations, as it is currently the case with some allowances of our members in Basic Medical Sciences.
6. The IPPIS is designed in such a way that outsourced services such as cleaning and security, casual workers, NYSC, etc. cannot be captured.
7. The IPPIS platform does not allow for deductions from staff salaries arising from legally sanctioned union and cooperative society activities. This will directly infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right of staff to association.
8. Payroll adjustments such as updates and variations to payroll will become centralized in Abuja It will therefore require any university staff with such problems to travel to Abuja at his/her expense to get it resolved.
9. IPPIS has in-built mechanism for escalating corruption when payroll is centralized. For example, a recent report on an Abuja-based FM Radio Station (Berekete Family) on Friday 23rd August, 2019, gave a vivid account of how some individuals used the IPPIS platform to perpetrate fraud running into millions of Naira. The case was actually reported by an individual who was being threatened for bursting the ring of individuals involved.
Several other cases have been linked with agencies already captured under the IPPIS. Hence, the most advertised advantage of curbing corruption through IPPIS may not hold water.
PROPOSALS AND CONCLUSION Our proposals include:
1. The Federal Government has made it impossible for the universities to function at their optimal level for failure to fund them adequately. In the last ten years or so, hardly were annual budgets of universities, especially the capital components,implemented up to 50%.
The government must return to releasing funds on, at least, quarterly basis, if not annually to support the smooth running of institutions. University Autonomy means that the Council of each university, not the Office of the Account-General of the Federation, has the power to manage the finance of the university.
2. If the Government wants to curb corruptive practices, through the payroll and personnel management, the best pathway is to make the Governing Councils work. The exercise of the power of the Visitor, in respect of the visitation exercise as explicitly stated in law which ASUU has continued to advocate, should be activated.
3. Nigerian universities have capacity to develop their own platform in place of IPPIS, with different levels of control, which can be accessed periodically to assess compliance with the regulations on transparency and accountability by each university. We have seen this practicalized in other universities in Africa, including the University of Ghana, Legon. ASUU can coordinate the project if the government gives the approval for the development of a separate and unique salary payment system for the universities.
In conclusion, ASUU strongly believes the introduction of IPPIS in the Federal Universities, which is not backed by law, will only compound the problem of regular flow of fund and personnel management, rather than resolve it.
The Union’s position is that there are extant legal provisions and negotiated agreements, arising from the nature and peculiarities of Nigerian universities, which make IPPIS unnecessary and inapplicable to the universities.