Despite the undaunted efforts of the current management of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), towards sanitizing and enthronement of efficient pension administration; particularly in regards to hitch-free payment of monthly pension, myriads of challenges have continued to wrestle against the agency’s efforts. However, Dr. Chioma Ejeikeme’s management team, is apparently geared to using innovative managerial and collaborative tactics to enthrone an era of effectiveness and efficiency in the administration of Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) pensioners’ welfare in Nigeria. CHRISTIAN APPOLOS, writes.
At a recent sensitization and collaboration forum organized by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) in Abuja, the Directorate’s Director, Pensioner Support Services Department, Mrs. Nneka Obiamalu, listed some of the issues and challenges that are prevalent in the payment of monthly pension operations.
For the sake of emphasis, she first hinted; “By the virtue of TSA policy, PTAD does not have a commercial bank account. All pensions funds(and recurrent & capital funds) are help in dedicated accounts in the CBN. PTAD is not the custodian of pensions funds. PTAD also does not effect the pension payment into pensioners’ bank accounts.”
Then, she went on to say that the issues and challenges faced the agency currently encounters include; “Delay in insurance of employee code to new pensioners. Failure at upload of payroll to GIFMIS payment platform. inaccurate employee code – bank code or account number. Network connectivity (bandwidth, connection, capacity)”
Others are; “Failure at the GIFMIS payment gateway. Network connectivity (bandwidth, connection, capacity). Status account ( dormant, inactive, restriction). Cash banking. Unavailability of online, real time status payment.Technical support from OAGF, GIFMIS support team. Funding challenges (delays, incomplete etc.)” it further gave examples of funding challenges to include: “Payment status, show news, pending, failed paid. Delay in receipts of funds by pensioners following payment. GIFMIS help desk may require up to 7 days to provide accurate status report on payment.”
Mrs Obianuju, However said; “Though failed payment to pensioners account is only about 2%, the time it takes to identify and resolve them has lead to numerous complaints from pensioners and negative media reports. Our intent is to look at ways of improving the synergy between key stakeholders to improve our services to our pensioners. We are looking for proactive, workable and sustainable solution.”
Earlier, in her succinct opening remarks, Dr. Chioma Ejeikeme, told the gathering of the stakeholders that; “The Directorate has deemed it fit and important to engage these group of stakeholders in order to continually re-strategize and come to terms with the realities of pension payments and its attendant challenges.”
“Recall that the pension industry had been swamped with complaints of extortion by fraudsters and phone calls demanding for money in order to quicken computation and payment of outstanding liabilities. Also, the past ineffective and poor management in the industry before pension reforms put pension management under the Defined Benefit Scheme in bad light. Following these issues, the advent of the pension reforms that the Directorate have a two-prolong situation: settling the outstanding pension arrears and sanitizing the monthly payroll management, as well as curbing fraud within the pension industry.”
“There are challenges but the magnitude is really not significant. We are here to look at some of the minor challenges that we’re having, I actually call them minor because the majority of our payments go through. So the minor challenges that we have, let everybody be in the know of those challenges. We are bring in the relevant stakeholders for us to sit down and look at how to address them and also get an input from the stakeholders. They’re there in the field and they know what’s going on better than what we do. So they might also have an input to help us to improve our processes.”
Furthermore, she shade more light on part of the strategic move of PTAD to achieve efficiency. “We are sensitizing the law enforcement agencies like the Department of State Security (DSS), Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC), Public Complaint Commission, Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP). We want them to really understand what we do. Because the perception out there, and the knowledge people out there have is that pension is being administered the way it was in the past, and that’s not the case. So we want to make sure that our processes and the way we conduct our payments is very well known to not just them, but also the general public.”
She also added, “With emphasis on the need to change the narrative in the administration of pension payment under the DBS, we are sensitizing and providing an avenue for contributions to help the Directorate perform more effectively and provide a platform for more collaboration for better service.
“Our commitment to improving our processes is continuous. PTAD believes it can do more and strive to achieve more with deeper collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders, knowing that we have the responsibility to help and put smile on the faces of the senior citizens.”
However, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Chief Godwin Abumisi, in his presentation at the forum, clearly listed some key challenges facing Defined Benefit Scheme pensioners in the country.
Top on his list is Non-harmonization of Pensions. Then he went on to say; “The Union (NUP) frowns and laments the lingering disparities in the pensions between the old and new pensioners who put in for same years of service and retired on the same Grade Level. The Union had made several efforts in pressing for the harmonization of these two categories of pensioners under the DBS in order to close the yawning gaps but to no avail. We hereby appeal to PTAD and other relevant government agencies connected to the implementation of this disparity to redouble their efforts in resolving this age long problem once and for all in the overall interest of our members under the DBS.
Secondly, he mentioned; Over-Payment and Short Payment. In his words; “Some pensioners are being short paid for a long period of time while some are being over paid. While it is expedient and convenient for PTAD to adjust every over payment to normal payment. it takes the same PTAD almost eternity to rectify any case of short payment. The Union seriously takes exception to that.”
Also on his list is; Skipping of Monthly Pension Payment. “Another noticeable error in the payment of monthly pension to pensioners is the skipping or omission of monthly pension by the system. Instead of correcting this anomaly, the skipped months would be abandoned. For example, some pensioners who missed their February and March payments continue to have those months to contend with as the system would start paying them from the month of April without taking to consideration the skipped months. Whenever this happens, payments of the skipped months becomes tales in the moonlight.
“Most pensioners that find themselves in such precarious position hardly get paid for such lost months. Regrettably, if matters are raised on their behalf, PTAD will begin to ask for various documents from the same pensioners such as verification slip, bank statements, letter of retirement etc. as if the error was from the affected pensioners whose bio-data have already been captured in the system. This is simply traumatic and frustrating.” He lamented.
He also listed: Non-Compliance with Constitutional Provisions as one of the challenges. “The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Sections 173 (3) and 210 (3) stipulates that “Pensions are to be reviewed every five years or together with workers’ salaries, whichever is earlier’. The Union had to struggle endlessly even when workers’ wages are reviewed. Pensions are reviewed when government feels like doing so without respecting the constitutional provisions by the Federal and State Governments. Presently, the Federal Government has skipped the 5yearly review of pension between 2010. 2015 and 2020.” He explained.
Lastly, listed: ICT Driven Pension Payment. His concerns regarding ICT is; “The platforms of PTAD have been so much computerized that PTAD almost forget that most pensioners they are dealing with are aged people who are not computer literate. Many at times, pensioners were directed like pupils to go and fill one form or another online. By doing this, PTAD exposes the pensioners and their accounts to the danger of internet fraudsters. We encourage PTAD to carry out wider sensitization programs and educate the pensioners on the “I Am Alive” online verification exercise so that they do not fall into the hands of fraudsters.” He concluded.