The Office of the Accountant General of Federation (AGF) has weighed into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) controversy, dismissing claims by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other tertiary bodies as “untenable, unpatriotic request to violate extant laws on tax”.
The ASUU and other associations of the nation’s tertiary institutions had many series of claims that IPPIS was deducting from their salaries and allowances, leaving their take-home pay at a measly 50% or less of what they earn.
But a reaction from the OAGF via a release made available to the media on Monday said a majority of staff of tertiary institutions have displayed unparalleled understanding and cooperated with IPPIS till date.
The statement, read in part: “The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Tax is a statutory tax deductions paid by all salary earners. IPPIS applied the correct rate in compliance with Section 34 of the 6th schedule on personal income tax (Amendment) Act of 2011. Prior to migration to IPPIS, the rate of tax being applied by tertiary institutions was not correct, leading to underpayment of PAYE Tax.
“The Federal Government has paid several billions on behalf of these institutions because of their underpayment of PAYE Tax. The request by the tertiary institution unions to formalise tax evasion through IPPIS is not only [an] untenable, but unpatriotic request to violate extant laws on tax.”
On the National Housing Fund (NHF) deductions, the statement said: The National Housing Fund (NHF) is 2.5% of basic salary. This is another statutory contribution backed by the Act of National Assembly. This is a savings contribution by all federal employees to enable them have access to short life loans to own their personal houses. These savings contribution are refundable with interest either at retirement or exit from being an employee of the federal government.”
The OAGF accused the union of making ambiguous requests and advised the body to expressly approach the National Assembly to amend the Act.
“The ASUU is bringing claims that those laws should not be applicable to them and thereby should be exempted or be made optional for them. The request for breach of Act of Parliament is not within the ambit of the IPPIS or the (OAGF). They have been advised to approach the National Assembly for amendment of the Act.”
The statement weighed in on the Employees’ Pension Contribution deductions of 7.5% and expressed its disappointment at the union’s position.
“The ASUU claim that the Employee Contributory Pension should be based on basic salary and not on consolidated salary and it has increased their employee deductions, thereby reducing their take home.
This is a penny wise argument not expected from the Ivory Tower.
“The Consolidated salary is what is applicable to determine employee’s contribution of all Federal employees’ as Salaries Income and Wages Commission (SIWC) have consolidated salary without the composition. The actual amount contributed by the employee determines what the Government contributes as well.”
The statement explained that the all deductions were in line with the SIWC and advised the unions to approach the commission to formalise any agreement on salaries and allowances that they claim to have been approved for them.
“The SIWC is the only body authorised by law to prescribe salary structure and issue circulars for all federal government employees in Nigeria, while Revenue Mobilization, Allocation And Fiscal Commission is the sister body that is authorized by law to issue circular on payment of salary and allowances to political office holders.
“Any other salaries and allowances approved by any other agency in Nigeria which are not formalized by these two agencies will amount to illegal payment. Therefore, ASUU and other unions are expected to understand this. The fact that they arm-twisted their institutions to pay them these allowances does not translate to legality.”
The OAGF further said, though it has done everything in its power to ensure that everything is fault-proof, it is not unaware that there are bound to be teething challenges arising from migration of tertiary institutions onto IPPIS platform, saying this would require “the cooperation and understanding of all the tertiary institutions to enable us effect the necessary corrections as quickly as possible”.
On the alleged payment to dead university staff, the OAGF accused the tertiary institutions of deliberately getting it wrong.
“…the Institutions deliberately forwarded to IPPIS the list containing dead ASUU members as being part of their personnel, to get more personnel fund. When the President directed that ASUU be paid, the OAGF sent a letter, through NUC Executive Secretary, requesting for the list of ASUU members through their VCs. We run BVN test on the list forwarded to us as we are aware that we cannot use the old nominal roll because of changes that might have likely taken place.
“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.”
The statement advised the union to desist from “cheap propaganda” and an unfruitful bid to “denigrate IPPIS for obvious reasons” and assured tertiary institution staff that “we are always willing and ready to serve them as best as possible, but we plead for their understanding and cooperation”.