By Jack Kalio
Just read the papers, and you will be hit by so much media hype and commentaries concerning fraud at the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). Many people have misinterpreted this to mean that NSITF is a den of thieves. This is far from the truth. Whatever has been termed fraud at the NSITF can only be traced to the past; not the present.
Any keen observer of the current leadership of NSITF will surely note the difference between where NSITF was before the incumbent management team came, and where it is now; not only because the present leadership is prudent and transparent in management of resources, and aggressive in achieving set goals, but there are also marked differences between making promises and taking steps to fulfil those promises.
A silent, deliberate anti-corruption crusade was initiated by the present management as soon as it took office. It successfully introduced and implemented a procurement policy which aims at practically promoting transparency and accountability in the procurement process. This has received rare endorsement from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC).
Findings show that the management team, led by Adebayo Somefun, wants a situation where every job must be advertised and formal bidding held before awards are made to the most competent, cost-friendly bidders. The re-introduction and observance of the due process policy has saved money for the organisation. There has been complete overhaul of the procurement operations; implementation of the public procurement guidelines to promote transparency of procurement operations; and establishment of procurement planning committee (PPC) to ensure proper implementation and due process in all contracts and consultancy jobs. These steps were taken in a bid to eradicate corrupt acts.
On assumption of office on May 2, 2017, Somefun and his team came up with a four-point agenda summarised as follows: consolidating on the achievements of previous administrations and improving on them; raising the revenue base of the organisation to effectively meet its statutory responsibilities; re-branding NSITF through aggressive campaign to improve acceptance and patronage by the various stakeholders; and motivation of staff through improved welfare provision such that they can operate within an encouraging work environment and also derive job satisfaction.
NSITF anchors its statutory functions on Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) as enshrined in the Employees Compensation Act of 2010. The ECS is structured to provide social security and insurance for injured employees in the course of work. In the case of death, it plays the part of family trustee for the dependents of the employees. The Fund seeks to lighten or completely take away the burden placed on employers when their workers are incapacitated or lose their lives. Under the existing law, such burdens are transferred to NSITF.
In the last one year alone, 42 artificial limbs have been paid for by NSITF to cater for workers who lost their limbs while carrying out their duties at work. This number is a huge leap compared to only 12 that were rehabilitated since 2011. Again, between 2011 to April 2017, the Fund had paid N959, 855, 531.58 as claims to beneficiaries. However, between May 2017 and June 2018, the present management paid N625, 686, 207.03 to beneficiaries as claims and compensation.
In a move to actualise its statutory vision, the management successfully lobbied the House of Representatives to initiate a motion towards enforcing compliance to the ECS. This resulted in public hearings involving stakeholders of the Scheme at all levels of government. They were fully briefed on the need to comply with the Act or face specified penalties. This has started yielding results. Non-compliant employers are promptly served pre-legal action notices.
In anticipation of the large volume of data collection and storage based on increased effort to raise subscription by stakeholders, the Fund decided to automate its operations. In this regard, it contacted relevant stakeholders to assist in the areas of collation and storage of data for easy access by staff whenever required. The aim is to move operations from manual to digital in line with acceptable global practice. Thus, a new software, Electronic Revenue Collection Compliance and Compensation (ERC3) has been introduced to galvanise enforcement compliance, claims and compensation activity, and overall operations of the Fund.
On welfare, staff promotions no longer attract protest before it is carried out. The result of the staff promotion examination conducted in 2016 has been released. Promotion interview has been conducted. It was the first since ECS started in 2011.
In addition regular payment of allowances has been restored. Also, 5,769 staff members have so far been trained nationwide for better productivity. From these interventions, previous hostile and explosive industrial relations atmosphere has been eradicated. Furthermore, branch offices of NSITF have been revamped for better service delivery by staff.
For many years, several properties owned by NSITF were hijacked by the consultants. The present management successfully initiated legal processes for the recovery of such properties.
So, what has been the result of the above efforts aimed at re-branding the NSITF? In financial terms, there have been great harvests. There has been considerable turn around in the Fund’s investment portfolio with management assiduously committing part of the Fund’s monthly collections to improve the investment.