By Adeola Badru
GOVERNMENT pensioners have lauded the new dimension put in place in the ongoing biometric verification of Federal Civil Servants retirees being conducted by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD).
The new dimension in verification, according to them, has curbed the activities of corrupt government officials who engaged in the diversion, for personal use, the funds earmarked for pensioners, as the accurate database has been created for prompt payment of their pension allowance.
Some of the pensioners who spoke with Vanguard at the Nigeria Union of Pensioners Events Hall, Agbarigo, Onireke area, Ibadan in the ongoing verification exercise, expressed happiness over what they called the ‘change agenda’ of the executive secretary of the organisation.
In his remark, a federal government pensioner, Mr Kunle Ajani, noted pension administration in Nigeria, especially as it concerns government pensioners, was nothing to write home about.
“The system was notorious for fraud, no by government officials who engaged in the diversion, for personal use, the funds earmarked for pensioners.”
“The situation has changed following the measures and structures put in place by the PTAD management which has sanitised the system and restored hope to pensioners.”
“A lot of material and human resources has been deployed to make the agency deliver on its goal,” he added.
Another pensioner, Mr Femi Ojo, who described the exercise as very smooth commended the management PTAD for putting up a water-tight arrangement for the smooth conduct of the exercise.
Ojo, said: “The process is very nice and smooth. Once you have your whole documents, you have no problems, in some few minutes you are done.”
“The documents they requesting from you are Letter of your first appointment, letter or gazette of confirmation of your appointment, letter or gazette of your last promotion, birth certificate or declaration of age, and National Identity, Card.”
“The way they do it now is so nice because the exercise is well-coordinated and orderly. It is first come first served. I commend PTAD,” he said.
While speaking with newsmen in Ibadan
at the biometric verification of pensioners who retired from the federal civil service, under the Defined Benefit Scheme, DBS, the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor explained that the lack of a proper database of pensioners gave room for ghost beneficiaries and other fraudulent activities in the past.
She, however, said the agency has left no stone unturned to get rid of the activities which bedevilled the old pension regime.
“When PTAD was established, it inherited a myriad of problems that had bedevilled the old pension offices namely, the Police, the Civil Service, Customs, Immigration and Prisons (CIPPO), as well as the Boards of Trustees of Parastatals and Agencies, which were poorly managed and underfunded.”
“There was no formal database of pensioners’ records, there were incomplete payrolls and reported instances of ghost beneficiaries as well as allegations of pervasive fraud in the operations of the offices.”
“Having observed all these, we formed a partnership with the EFCC and the ICPC which brought about the setting up of an Anti-Corruption Transparency Unit (ACTU). This unit has been helpful in the discovery of corrupt practices in the system and some perpetrators of this evil act have been sentenced to jail.”
“PTAD is in the business of restoring hope in pension administration in Nigeria and we have put in place quite a number of measures to alleviate the sufferings of pensioners. We have introduced a client-focused service orientation that shows care and empathy because we discovered that, in time past, pensioners were treated with disrespect during the verification and also when they try to follow up on the payment of their outstanding entitlements.”
To this effect, we introduced the concept of pensioner care and welfare whereby they are provided with conducive sitting atmosphere during verification, food and water, as well as wheelchairs for those who have mobility challenges. We also conduct mobile verification for those who are infirmed at their homes or hospital to ensure everyone is captured regardless of their health challenge,” the PTAD Executive Secretary explained.
Ikeazor who insisted that the exercise was designed to provide foolproof data for all federal pensioners after verification processes that terminate at the quality assurance stage, said PTAD would commence the payment of the benefit to genuine pensioners three months after.
However, PTAD had earlier announced that the process of verification of the pensioners would consist of four distinct steps of biodata, capturing and provision of other relevant documents.
It said that the entire process was to suitably place the pensioners in the payroll and database for payment of their monthly pension, adding that sick pensioners would be covered in their locations.