By Victor Ahiuma-Young
The Management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, has dismissed the allegation of award of frivolous projects .
This came as the fund said it is committed to staff welfare,better living and working conditions of its employees.
According to the fund all contracts it awarded were properly evaluated, awarded and executed in line with due process, passing through advisements and necessary approvals from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) .
The Management also re-stated commitment to the implementation of a new salary structure that will be free of erroneous computations, and critically reflective of the financial reality in the fund, with full participation of the two staff unions in the agency.
A statement by the General Manager Corporate Affairs of the NSITF, Mrs. Ijeoma Oji-Okoronkwo said “We are committed to transparency in discharging our responsibilities. We have no option.”
Addressing the claims raised by the union, the Fund stated that “the allegation of frivolous and white elephants projects being awarded and implemented are unfounded, as every contract goes through a laid down process, including NEEDS assessment before bidding .
“Every contract in the fund is first evaluated to determine its impacts and usefulness before bidding. Indeed, the current E-NSITF is in line with the Federal Government mandate on e-business and thus, received all the necessary endorsement up to the Federal Executive Council(FEC) before its implementation.
“ As a matter of fact , the E-NSITF has been on the drawing board since 2015 but it took the rejuvenated management and the parent Ministry to take it, head on in 2020 in line Federal Executive Council directive. Hence it received all necessary endorsements from the Parastatal Tenders Board to the Ministerial Tenders Board and finally to the Federal Executive Council.
“The E-NSITF will effortlessly ease business management processes as it is ultimately targeted at increasing efficiency in daily operational input and output . The contributors can now easily get compliance certificates and have enhanced access entitlements, with an improved feedback for both the fund and its customers. Importantly, transparency will take the centre stage as the fulcrum of every operation.
“Contributors will enjoy the comfort of paying online from their offices, thereby cutting off fake NSITF compliance certificate that was the order before now and equally eliminate nefarious staff members who go to employers and contributors to make deal by lowering their workers strength.
“What’s more? The FEC contract price came with a BPE review that saved a lot of money for the government and the fund.
Curiously , the same chief that executed this procurement , is crying wolf because his favoured contractor lost out in the bid.
“Besides, the new salary structure earlier approved was found to be riddled with errors and replete with vague details, hence, necessitating clarification that will require time for proper computation which is being handled by the Natioal Salaries Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) that has promised to correct the anomalies and re-issue a 2023 wage structure that will still take effect from January 2023.
“NSIWC and the management of the NSITF are re-scheduled to conclude its meeting next week before this riotous picketing, stopping management members from entering their offices . Unfortunately, ASSBIFI is aware that dialogue is on , yet , made a broadcast to its members to withdraw services against the ILO Principles at Work and the Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, forbidding such action when dialogue is on.
“It is to our chagrin that the same union which is part of the review of the said salary structure, already withdrawn by the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission(NSIWC) is the one calling out members for action on the same issue.”
The statement equally stated that the management did not demote any staff as alleged by the union. It rather took step to correct the anomaly in the salary structure which was observed by the NSIWC. Hence , two wage band had be collapsed into one with adequate administrative procedure made to ensure none in any of the bands loses seniority in tandem with the nine (9)tier salary structure that obtains in the Public Service. It added that this was part of the conditions set by the NSIWC for an upward salary review and promotions in the fund .
On the alleged non-promotion of staff as well as recruitment of new staff into the management cadre, the fund noted that “a total of one hundred and forty-five staff members were promoted to the management cadre while over 600 non-management staff were also promoted in the last two promotion exercises based on performance . In spite , where special skills set for a particular vacancy cannot be found within the fund, the NSITF had to source for such competence from outside the existing staff members to boost productivity in accordance with the law and public service rules.”
The statement equally dismissed claims that management staff members have been enjoying unapproved salaries and allowances since 2013 .
“ The board of the fund via a circular entitled “ Board Approved Increases in Salaries and Allowances” dated 27thAugust , 2013 , approved increases in salaries and allowances of all staff . This applied until 2021 when the New Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment structure was effected for the NSITF, resulting in increases with effect from 2019, when the new minimum wage took off.”
The statement assured the union all staff members of the commitment of the fund to a continued social dialogue with the union members in line with the Trade Disputes Act and all relevant conventions of the ILO to adequately ventilate and amicably settle all disputes.
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