ASUU naying IPPIS: Scuttling The Public Sector Financial Reform?
By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
It is part of the public record in Nigeria that a team was appointed by the Administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo to look into the accounts of the rested Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which was established by the military Government led by General Sani Abacha to accelerate the delivery of public goods and improve the general wellbeing of Nigerians. It was chaired by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
The investigation team, which was called Interim Management Team, was composed of the these personalities, Dr. Haroun Adamu (Chairman), Alhaji Abdu Abdurrahim, Barrister Achana Gaius Yaro, Arc Edward Eguavoen, Mr. T. Andrew Adegboro and Engr Baba Goni Machina. They did a thorough job of the assignment.
The purpose of the probe or investigation of PTF, many Nigerians believed, rightly or wrongly, was to find even the tiniest hint of possible breach of public trust by its erthwhile Chairman, Muhammadu Buhari. That possible sign of a possible wrong doing could have been used to dent his good name in the eyes of Nigerians who strongly believed that he was honest, prudent and genuinely committed to deploying national resources entrusted to him for the benefit of all Nigerians.
The investigative team could not find anything negative against Muhammadu Buhari and the entire former staff of the Petroleum Trust Fund. Thus, the outcome of that probe by the Interim Management Team, only deepened the respect and love the ordinary citizens of this country have for him. His positive reputation was consolidated and reaffirmed. The investigation failed to find any fault which could be used to dismantle his image and ruin the foundation of the trust the ordinary citizens had in him.
On January 14, 2015, Vanguard newspaper published a story in which former president Olusegun Obasanjo cleared Muhammadu Buhari of any wrong doing during his tenure as the Chairman of the PTF. The news item said: “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, said the report of the probe panel he set up when he held the sway as the president of the country did not indict the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, General Muhammadu Buhari of any corruption while he was administering Petroleum Trust Fund.”
It is certain that majority of the personnel who worked in the PTF under the leadership of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), believed and shared his view of life and the quality of being honest in public service. Not only sharing his views, they elected to become protective of his reputation by ensuring that they did not collude with contractors and suppliers to execute projects shoddily or accept sub-standard supplies.
One of those PTF personnel was Malam Ahmed Idris, a professional accountant. He worked as an Assistant Director of Accounts, an influencial directorate-level postion at the organisation. He was one of the tough and thorough individuals, posted from their consultancies or from the various pools of the civil service, that worked diligently for the Fund which made positive difference on the wellbeing of Nigerians without unlawfully diverting chunks of the available resources meant for that purpose.
When the PTF was dissolved, Ahmed Idris returned to his civil service job, serving in various government ministries and agencies. He was at the same time benefitting from training programmes that sharpened his skills, commensturate to the responsibilities of the higher ranks of Deputy Director (Accounts ) and the Director of Accounts.
An entry on his published profile on the Internet says, “he had worked as Assistant Director (Finance and Accounts) at the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF); National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and Ministry of Police Affairs; as Deputy Director (Finance and Accounts); Federal Ministry of Interior and Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF). He was Director (Finance and Accounts) at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development respectively prior to his appointment as the Accountant-General of the Federation.”
His appointment as the Accountant-General of the Federation by President Muhammadu
Buhari in June 2015 and subsequent re-appoitment for a second term in June 2019 by Mr. President, was in line with the provisions of Section 171 of the the Nigerian Constitution. It is also a proof that President Muhammadu Buhari has confidence in Ahmed Idris and wanted him to sustain the pace of implementing the ongoing Public Sector Financial Reforms.
Various sources indicate that the reforms are necessary to minimise corruption in the application of public funds, maximise value for money, enhance transparency and improve efficiently in the delivery of public goods. The Federal Ministry of Finance is driving the reforms mainly through the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
The pillars of the reform include the deployment of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS); Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS); the Treasury Single Account (TSA); Electronic-Payment and International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). All these reform implementing tools are domiciled in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. So, whoever is the Accountant-General of the Federation must be of strong character, high competence, strong dilligence and unwavering courage in implementing the reforms in the face of opposition, resistance to change and pressure from vested interests to scuttle it. The political will at the highest level, specifically that of the President, is essential in keeping the reforms in place and with the required thrust to to root it firmly in the system for sustainability.
Indeed, one of the pillars of the reform, the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which helped the Federal Government to detect irregularities and thousands of ghost workers, is being resisted by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the untenable ground that, including its members in the system will erode the “autonomy” of Federal Governmen-owned Universities, which are funded from the treasury.
For complying with and operating within the rules guiding the implementation of IPPIS and other pillars of the reform, ASUU is now personalising the matter by wrongly portraying the Accountant-General of the Federation as an enemy. While sustaining a year-old strike which crippled university-level education in Nigeria, without any feeling for the students and empathy with the agony of parents, ASUU is imposing its unverified software on the Federal Government to intergrate the payroll of universities and their personnel in the name of preserving the “autonomy” of universities. Aceeding to this by the Federal Government could lead to the end of the reform that started in 2004. It will also make ASUU believe that it can solely truncate any policy of the government that is not acceptable to it for whatever flimsy reasons, regardless of the purpose and the need to make the country more conducive for positive progress by implementing such policy. This should not be accepted by the Federal Government.
Salisu Nainna Dambatta was a retired Federal Director and writes from Kano