Stories by Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE issue of unpaid promotion and other arrears has been a problem in the public service. Organised Labour has once threatened to shut the federal public service over the issue. In this piece, the Secretary General of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Alade Bashir Lawal, speaks on this, the unending leadership crisis in the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, among others.
Promotional, other arrears
The position is that payment has started. As we speak, it is ongoing in the sense that during the settlement of these arrears, there were some observed lapses like some people were not fully paid, some names were omitted. So, we complained and we agreed that those involved should be encouraged to forward their lists and the correct calculations according to their own evaluation, to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF. This has been done and settlements are being made as they are received.
The issue of salary arrears too is broken into two parts. Some people were employed about four or five years ago but were not captured on time due to bureaucratic bottlenecks here and there. Ones they are captured, it maybe after four years and what is done, their monthly salary commences. Those that have fallen into arrears are now left for the ministry involved to calculate and prepare the necessary papers and present same to the AGF for settlement.
Since this is part of the ongoing agreement that should be settled, that is also being done. But we understand that of late, they said the salary arrears should wait until they finish the promotion arrears. So, we are engaging them on that because what we agreed was that all these arrears should be settled. Since promotional arrears is almost cleared up now, the salary arrears should not be delayed any further.
Along the line too, some people without disciplinary measures hanging on their necks, that have one or two months’ salaries in the last five years were skipped. So, all those unpaid salaries have also fallen into arrears and these are also part of what we are talking about. More, importantly is the issue of promotion arrears. When payment started, it covered 2012 to 2016. But in the process of settlement, 2017 has also fallen into arrears.
We are encouraging the Finance Minister to use the current window to also capture 2017 arrears and settle same. So that from from 2018 the ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, will now be encouraged to capture people who are promoted as at when due. In this case, the financial entitlement that dovetailed from the promotion will not start falling into arrears again. That is the stage we are. We have written the AGF calling for a meeting so that all these grey areas will be properly put in place so that before the end of the year we can put these issues behind us.
You know the Federal Executive Council, FEC agreed that N10billion should be earmarked monthly for the settlement of the arrears. Since that decision was taken, we should be talking of close to 15 or 16 now. So, on paper, we expected that as at now, close to N200billion should have been released. But what has been released so far, I am not sure is up to 70 or 80 billion Naira. As they need more money, the authority applies, the minister approves it and it comes to the AGF for the release of cash. The window now is the approval that we are talking about.
That is N10billion monthly release. Since it can cover all these arrears we are talking about, there will be no need to start going to look for fresh approvals. You know if you say you want to start to cover from 2012 to 2016 and it amounts to maybe over N100billion, from what has been approved in principle by FEC, it is going to be N200billion. From the N200billion, you still have some allowance that you can utilise. So, you do not need to start going back for approval. That is what we are talking about.
Unending crisis in NHIS
The problem we have with NHIS is just the headship of that place. The Director General, DG, with every sense of responsibility is not fit to hold that office. He is always at loggerhead with everybody and when you see a character like that, my own take is that he is not prepared for leadership and possibly he may be also harbouring some hidden agenda not known to us.
That is why we were not happy when he was recalled, he should have been allowed to leave the system in peace. So, since he has come back there, he has been creating one problem or the other, and he is unsettling the system. He is there to create stability, so that the appropriate thing can be done in terms of the oversight functions of the scheme. But, sadly, the man is not doing that, he is always fighting. There is no day he will not pick up quarrel with one perceived enemy or the other. It is quite sad.
We believe that the government should bend backward and review the appointment so that the man will be shown the way out. We don’t need such a leader in the 21st century. He is a disaster. With the current DG, the NHIS cannot meet its mandate. It is possible the man is defending the interest of some faceless individuals, we can say. He is an unstable character and is creating needless distractions and not allowing workers to do their jobs. We have never seen such leadership .