TOWARDS the end of the October 2019 deadline for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, of the Federal Government to ensure their staff were enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the battle line got drawn between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, described ASUU’s opposition to the IPPIS scheme as “an open endorsement of corruption”.
While Idris insisted there was no going back on the implementation of the policy in all MDAs, including federal institutions of higher learning, ASUU’s President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, ramped up the union’s campaign for universities to be exempted from the scheme by leading a delegation of the union’s officials to see the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan. He warned that universities would down tools if their staff salaries were not paid.
Top among ASUU’s worries about the inclusion of universities in the IPPIS scheme is the perception that doing so would bring them back into the Civil Service structure. It would reduce Vice-Chancellors to “errand boys” of top bureaucrats and political office holders and tamper with the cherished academic freedom for which ASUU has fought over the decades.
ASUU argues that treating the universities like MDAs will not only run contrary to the spirit of freedom to operate and innovate for which universities worldwide are known, it would open the avenue for external influence-peddlers who would ultimately foster corruption in the system which the IPPIS is set up to curtail.
In fact, ASUU described IPPIS as “a scam” as it is not backed by law, adding that it will make outsourced services like cleaning, casual workers and others who help universities to operate effectively not to be accommodat-ed in the payroll since they are not staff of the Federal Government.
We are strongly of the view that there is no need for this sabre-rattling on both sides. IPPIS, which was set up by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and wisely adopted by the Buhari administration, has shown it can help to effectively nip corruption in the bud. It has helped to curtail the scourge of ghost workers and pensioners and reduced recurrent expenditure overload.
We call on ASUU to allow university staff on Federal Government permanent appointment to be enrolled in the IPPIS, while the university Governing Councils and Senates should negotiate with the Federal Government to ensure that tertiary institutions function without their legally-guaranteed autonomies being curtailed or their internal operations stymied. Let the success of IPPIS be extended to the doorsteps of the universities to fight corruption without interfering with the smooth running of the institutions. Let this be resolved without disruptions to the academic system.