By NDUKA CHIEJINA
FOR a long time, the Federal Government had no accurate and reliable data on personnel in the civil service. This resulted in inaccurate budgeting for recurrent expenditures and other challenges.
In an attempt to reduce and possibly eliminate these problems, the government introduced the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to be implemented in phases.
In 1999, after the country’s return to democratic rule, the government carried out a Public Service Reform (PSR) study and the result was the development of the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR) in 2003.
The strategy was to be implemented through four cardinal programmes known as the four pillars of NSPSR. Pillar three was aimed at “implementing a public financial management reform to achieve strategic, efficient and effective mobilisation, allocation and use of public resources, fiscal discipline, transparency, integrity and accountability through timely reporting”.
To achieve this pillar, the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFFMIS) and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) were created. These are digital-based programme aimed at Public Financial Management (PFM) and the Human Resource and Payroll issues at the federal level.
Thus, IPPIS is a form of identity system management aimed at providing a centralised database to support personal planning and decision making, automated storage of personnel records to aid staff enrolment, and monitoring against budgeting and prevention of wastages and leakages based on factual personnel records and information (www.oagf.gov.ng/IPPIS).
IPPIS captures facial images, fingerprints of government employees, and stored in a digitalised data-based library which can be accessed with authorisation anywhere.
IPPIS was a reform initiative conceived to position the public service for improved efficiency and productivity. It was rolled out in 2007 with seven pilot Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) and has since been expanded to cover 506 MDAs with total staff strength of 344,625 as at September last year.
IPPIS Secretariat is a department under the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. It is responsible for payment of salaries and wages directly to government employee’s bank account with appropriate deductions and remittances of third party payments such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service, State Boards of Internal Revenue, National Health Insurance Scheme, National Housing Fund, Pension Fund Administrator, Cooperative Societies, Trade Unions Dues, Association Dues and Bank Loans.
The department is responsible for processing and payment of salary to over Three hundred thousand (300,000) Federal Government Employees across the 506 MDAs. IPPIS aims to enrol into the platform, all Federal Government MDAs that draws personnel cost fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Since the inception of the IPPIS project in April 2007, the department claims it has saved the Federal Government billions of Naira by eliminating thousands of ghost workers.
A study carried out by Lucky Izobo Enakirerhi and Sunny O Temile stated that “accurate and reliable personnel information, reduction or elimination of corrupt and sharp practices, facilitation of modern scientific and accurate budgeting and forecasting are the major benefits of IPPIS. These benefits are, however, threatened by skills transfer problem, poor supporting infrastructure, technological barriers for inter-MDAs transfer, resistance from stakeholders and lack of will for accelerated implementation.”
They argued that “accelerated and unbiased implementation that will enable smooth transfer of the IPPIS technology knowledge and skills from consultants to government personnel for effective management, future integration and synchronising of IPPIS with other identity management system are keys to harnessing the benefits of the project.”
From audit carried out through IPPIS implementation, the Budget Office of the Federation and the National Planning Commission were among the government agencies that had high incidences of ghost workers with 77.3 per cent and 74.9 per cent of names on payroll being ghost workers.
“This means that in 2017, the overhead cost of running these two agencies would be reduced by over 75 per cent due to the implementation of IPPIS,” the scholars said.
Under the old manual and filing system, some unscrupulous workers were collecting salaries from multiple salaries from different government sources, or not working with the government. Inaccurate and unreliable information characterized the old manual and file-based system, resulting in padded overhead cost, double pay and other sharp practices. This meant that the government did not know the number of its workforce resulting in budgeting and estimation difficulties.
Enakirerhi and Temile added that “the file-based system is marred with over-estimation of ministerial budgeting and thereby fuelling corruption in two ways, falsification of age and certificate of the local government of origin (indigeneship) due to ease of replacement of file records and other sharp practices. Introduction of IPPIS helps reduce these menace as payrolling would be central and directly to employees’ private accounts.”
The implementation of IPPIS has not been without challenges. Some of these challenges include lack “of sufficient skills transfer to government personnel which prolong consultants stay on the project, poor state of supporting infrastructure such as low internet penetration, technological barrier, problem associated with transfer of pay point due to the posting of employees from IPPIS MDA to non-IPPIS MDA, resistance from stakeholders which have prolonged implementation, and government’s lack of will and commitment to accelerate implementation of this project”.
The IPPIS project has also had some scandals coming from it. Police inspectors and rank and file under the Akwa Ibom State Police Command and some personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps have called on the authorities to investigate inconsistency in the payment of their salaries.
They queried the operation of the IPPIS, saying they suspect fraud. According to the police officers who pleaded anonymity, they have been suffering underpayment of their regular salary every month since 2018 when payment of police salaries and allowances was moved from Mechanised Salary Section (MSS) to the IPPIS.
One of them said: “We made complaints at the MSS Uyo and the officers there blamed the IPPIS saying the problem is from the IPPIS. And when some of us suffered and travelled to IPPIS office in Abuja they were referred back to the MSS in Uyo and blamed the MSS for the short payments and non-payment in some months.
“Some inspectors on same grade level 10 now receive N50, 000, N60, 000, some N40, 000. And we also have situations where constables are receiving N250, 000 monthly, while sergeants, inspectors are paid N10, 000, N32, 000, and even N9, 000 as monthly salary.
”We demand to know why officers in the same grade level are paid different as salary, and why the amount paid each month is not consistent.
“The situation is that we no longer know what our salary is per month as IPPIS pays whatever amount they deem fit for each month. Some people lose up to N60, 000, each month from what they have been receiving before IPPIS took over our salary payment.
“We are therefore appealing to the president, the Inspector General of Police IGP to as a matter of great importance institute a high powered investigative panel to unravel this endemic corruption. IPPIS activities as it relates to the payment of police Salaries should be investigated from February 2018 till date.”
Another affected police officer said that they have found out recently that their colleagues with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC have been paid refund from the short payment after going to IPPIS office in Abuja to threaten them.
“We gathered that few of our colleagues that have corrected their short payment did so by visiting IPPIS through back door. That is why we are calling on the IGP, Chairman Senate Committee on Police Affairs, to set up a fact-finding team to go across the command and hear the agony of the men before we embark on a protest to expose IPPIS and the fraud they have been committing.
“Even the implementation of the new salary package approved by President Buhari for the Nigeria Police Force December 2018 is another source of concern as the fraud by IPPIS continues. It is unfortunate because this is only a mockery of the President’s fight against corruption.”
When asked to comment on this development, spokesman of the OAGF, Mr. Henshaw Ogubike, who is the Deputy Director (Press), told The Nation that the aggrieved government workers should report to their desk officers to have such issues addressed. He also referred them to publications on IPPIS placed in national dailies.
It was also been alleged by the former Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr. Ekpo Nta, that “by outsmarting the Federal Government Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), some public servants allegedly collected salaries from four different federal ministries”.
Nta spoke at the commencement of a three-day anti-corruption and fraud prevention training organised by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), a research and training arm of the ICPC in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
He said, as a result, the commission had partnered with Office of the Auditor General, Office of the Accountant General and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to monitor and execute corruption risks assessment on the various electronic-governance platforms.
In March 2016, the Auditor–General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Samuel Ukura, said the introduction of the IPPIS is not the cure for ghost workers syndrome in the country’s public service.
The AGF noted that ghost workers syndrome would continue in the country unless the management and implementation of IPPIS was checked by relevant authorities.
Ukura gave the warning while presenting the 2014 Annual Audit Report to the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikashuwa, in Abuja.
He lamented that unidentified software developers have unhindered access to the database of IPPIS and usually set up new users and change live data, from time to time.
Ukura told reporters after presenting his audit report that the password controls for access to IPPIS were not adequate because the database can be accessed remotely through the internet. He added that the password to access the IPPIS database does not expire after 90 days.
The situation, he said, makes it possible for retired government officers to use their password even after leaving the office.
Certainly, the IPPIS is not without its challenges. For analysts, the loopholes must be blocked if the gains are not to be lost.