August 11, 2020

Ex-PHCN staff severance benefits gulped N409bn, says BPE


…N7.48bn paid to union

By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief

Federal Government has spent N409.915 billion on payment of severance benefits to ex-workers and death benefits of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

The Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, disclosed this in a statement by its Head of Public Communications, Amina Othman, yesterday.

According to the agency  the payment streams were categorized into two – severance payments  to former active staff of PHCN and the payment of PHCN retirees/death benefits which PHCN could not pay before it handed over to the successor companies.

It explained that for active workers, the total number submitted to the BPE by PHCN was 47,913, adding that of the number, 47,275, representing 99 percent, had been fully paid. BPE said these were forwarded to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, OAGF, for payment in 36 batches.

The 638 outstanding active staff, BPE said, consisted of 167 duplicate and blank spaces on the list; 414 that never turned up for verification; 25 that had been audited and were awaiting cash-backing; nine with initial documentation problems soon to be audited; and another 23 with documentation problems.

The agency added that in the course of the verification, 81 people were found to be short-paid, which had been corrected   and cash-backed, while  180 cases recently treated and recomputed for   short–payment were awaiting cash backing. BPE explained further:  “4,438 PHCN Retirees/NOKs (Next Of Kins) have been submitted to BPE in eight batches and to date,  3,131 representing, 71 percent of the beneficiaries have been fully paid their entitlements with 1,307 yet to be paid.

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‘’This is as a result of 15 of them having error in serial numbering,  66 possible duplicates in submissions which 14 of them have been recently audited; and 196 have been cleared and are awaiting cash-backing, 392 cleared and sent to the pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, for pension related benefits and 694 to the Presidential Initiative for Continuous Auditing (PICA) for Gratuities and Deceased Benefits.”

On the two percent union deductions, the bureau said a total of N7.485 billion had already been  paid to the defunct PHCN unions account from  batches 1-36, while the Bureau had already written to the  Accountant General of the Federation to credit the unions’ account for the remaining deductions.

Similarly, it said that the 10 percent equity shareholding for staff of the defunct utility company,  in accordance with the privatisation policy, the Bureau reserved 10 percent of the balance of 40 percent (4 percent) for workers of the successor companies.

“The Ten (10) percent shares due to workers of the Power Companies would be allotted to them after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) completes it assignment on the valuation of the investments done by state in the distribution companies. The valuation would form the basis on which shares will be allotted to each state government.

“Regarding the non-computation of 16 months’ entitlements of staff of the defunct PHCN, the Bureau said that  during one of the engagements with the unions on January 13, 2014 at the Federal Ministry of Power, it was agreed that  “7.5 percent employer pension contribution of July,  2012 to 31st  October, 2013 will be paid by the Federal Government (Market Operator)”.

“Though the decision had been communicated to the Market Operator, the Unions suggested that BPE should escalate the matter to the Vice President and the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) for consideration and resolution. Papers to the NCP on the matter are being completed.”

On the post retirement training of the former PHCN staff, BPE said there was a decision to conduct a post-retirement training for them but that the lack of cohesion among the agencies that had the responsibility to organize the training has caused the   non-implementation.

It added:  “As result of this, funding for the assignment is now in jeopardy.”

BPE said some of the ex-workers and pensioners/NOKs are having difficulties to access their entitlements since 2013 when their payments were cash-backed due to invalid account details such as:  Non-nuban account numbers; wrong account names/numbers; and wrong bank names.

It added that for the pensioners/NOKs, wrong or invalid RSA details such as: wrong RSA Account   names; wrong RSA Pins; wrong account RSA; multiple RSA accounts; failed payments attempted once by officials of the Various paying Banks; and bank account detail dormancy.

BPE said, however, that it was working with the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) to resolve the problems and ensure payments of all such handing entitlements.