From Nduka Chiejina (Assistant Editor), Abuja
The war of words between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), over the Integrated Personnel Information System (IPPIS), is getting hotter.
The Federal Government has revealed that ASUU members underpaid Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax running into billions of Naira over the years.
Reacting to criticisms from ASUU over discrepancies on recent salary payments, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) on Monday disclosed that “the rate of tax being applied by tertiary institutions was not correct, leading to underpayment of PAYE Tax.”
The OAGF noted that because of the underpayment, “state governments made claims on the Federal Government to pay the differential arising from underpayment of tax by these institutions.”
Bowing to pressure from the state governments, the OAGF said that the “Federal Government has paid several billions on behalf of these institutions because of their underpayment of the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax.”
The OAGF categorically told ASUU that “the request by the tertiary institution unions to formalise tax evasion through Integrated Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is not only untenable, but also an unpatriotic request to violate extant laws on tax.”
Regarding the demand for Bank Verification Number (BVN) from ASUU members before they can be paid, the OAGF said that about 1,180 ASUU members “failed the BVN test and details have been forwarded to the universities for the necessary correction and update.”
According to the OAGF, “BVN as a way of confirming all account numbers of the tertiary institutions that are sent to IPPIS were forwarded to the relevant agencies for validation and confirmation”, but over a thousand ASUU members bungled their information.
With regards to non-receipt of salaries after others have been paid, the Accountant General said “this arose because the names on the payroll are not in uniformity with the names in the bank. Employees are expected to update their bank details in conformity with names on the payroll, as effort to change payroll names in the banks is not allowed, except where there is a change of name as a result of marriage.”
The IPPIS platform, the OAGF said, “does not recognise joint accounts operated by two or more persons. Every salary payment is personal.”
On the alleged payment to dead university workers, the OAGF noted that “the institutions deliberately forwarded to IPPIS the list containing dead ASUU members as being part of their personnel, to get more personnel fund.”
According to the OAGF, “it is the responsibility of the institutions or agencies to inform the IPPIS office about death, resignation or exit from service before due date. We sent payroll analysis to the tertiary institution bursars for review of any omission or names to be excluded.”
On payment of allowances and salaries, the OAGF argued that “any other salaries and allowances approved by any other agency in Nigeria, which are not formalised by the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (SIWC), will amount to illegal payment.”
Therefore, the OAGF urged ASUU and other unions to understand this.
“The fact that they arm-twisted their institutions to pay them these allowances does not translate to legality.”
Commenting on payments for sabbatical visits and adjunct lecturers, the OAGF stated that “payment of sabbatical aid visiting lecturers is duly recognised by IPPIS, but it is dependent on furnishing the IPPIS with the particulars of such lecturers, including his IPPIS number, his primary institution, the start date of the sabbatical or the visiting and the end date.”
The government, it said, “recognises the fact that all workers on sabbatical are entitled to 100 per cent of their salaries as sabbatical allowances, while visiting and adjunct lecturers will enjoy 50 per cent of their salaries as visiting allowance.”
The OAGF warned ASUU that “government will no longer incur unnecessary expenditure on pension, NHIS or such allowances that are not part of universities pensionable salaries.”