HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR PENSIONERS

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Ofem Uket writes that the ongoing reforms in the civil service will take care of pensioners

Potential retirees in the civil service are not expected to exit the service henceforth without receiving their entitlements – gratuities and pensions – to enable them go home well-equipped to start a new life. In the past, retirees wait for years before their benefits are processed and paid.

This is part of the ongoing civil service reforms under President Muhammadu Buhari, demonstrating high level commitment and preparedness to ensure that retirees from the civil service do not face the danger of waiting endlessly to be paid their pensions.

Relevant retirement training programmes are organized for potential retirees to get them equipped in any area of endeavour, ranging from animal production, fish farming, crop production, water and irrigation farming, amongst others.

Such trainings are organized by the Office of the Head of Civil Service as contained in the eight core modules of the implementation strategy plan of the reform agenda of the present administration aimed at addressing all forms of impediments drawn against viable and a more productive public sector.

Palpable fear often grips a section of civil servants approaching retirement because of the delay associated with payment of statutory entitlements, such as gratuity and pensions, with some retirees actually dying before payments are made.

However, such occurrences are now considered to be in the past, given the fact that preparation for potential retirees are made ahead in the areas of training, capacity building, skill acquisition, evaluation of entitlements and subsequent payment before retirement date.

Again, towards national development in public sector reforms, an 80-seater computer-based test (CBT) centre in the Public Service Institute was commissioned by the Head of Civil Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, last week in Abuja. The centre is a donation to the Public Service Institute (PSIN) by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Africa Capacity Building grant.

These efforts are to reposition the public service; to build capacity of its work force in order to imbibe the culture of being efficient, productive, incorruptible and citizen-centered in the Nigerian workforce. The new centre will strengthen the capacity of the institute, which will in turn go a long way to help in actualizing the strategic plan of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

Nigeria had therefore called for continuous support from the ACBF to build PSIN capacity to become the foremost capacity building institute in Africa, describing the partnership between ACBF and PSIN as “partnership that works”.
This development will indeed boost the mandate of the institute to provide competency-based and demand-driven capacity building to public servants. The new 80-seater CBT Centre will among other things shorten the time frame used in conducting computer- based tests and also ensure transparency and enhanced integrity of examination processes as well as promote E-Governance through Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
Therefore there has to be concerted efforts by civil servants to utilize the centre to acquire computer literacy, transparency in their recruitment and promotion exercises.
To further strengthen federal government resolve to prepare the way of retirees ahead of time, the National Pension Commission (Pencom) said the commission has finalized arrangement to commence the verification of prospective retirees expected to retire from the public service of the federation next year.

Already, 15 centres which cut across the six geo-political zones of the country had been earmarked for the verification exercise and would hold between July 1 and August 2.
The centers are Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Ilorin, Gombe, Owerri, Sokoto, Enugu, Lokoja, Ibadan, Lafia and Benin.

Speaking at the pre-retirement workshop for the federal government retirees due to retire in 2020 in Ilorin, Kwara State on Monday, Dahir-Umar, acting Director General PENCOM said, “the workshop was necessary to create awareness and enlighten the potential retirees on what they need to know on documentation requirement, payments of retirement benefits and best way to enjoy life retirement.”

The fundamental objectives of the pension reform act (PRA 2014) is to ensure that every person who worked in either the public service of the federation, Federal Capital Territory, states and local governments or the private sector receive his or her retirement benefits as and when due and to establish uniform set of rules, regulations and standards for all aspects of pension administration including payment of retirement benefits to retirees amongst others”.

Therefore, the forthcoming verification exercise necessitates the need to undertake adequate sensitization and public enlightenment in order to prepare prospective retirees on the steps to take towards a hitch free retirement life.”

President Buhari has therefore reiterated the federal government’s commitment to make life worth living after retirement with payment of retirees’ benefits, while it’s clear that retirees have to make useful suggestions during the pre-retirement workshop about the issues that may further help to make their retirement life more comfortable.

On the ongoing IPPIS verification, from records made available by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, about N220bn is said to have been savings accruing from the implementation of the IPPIS, and an exercise that is one of the major components of the ongoing reforms.

A statement from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation said that the amount is expected to increase when other agencies of government are enrolled into the platform which will significantly promote the automation of the public service as constituted.

The IPPIS is one of the federal government’s reform initiatives conceived to transform the Nigerian public service and aimed at improving the management of human resources and providing a centralized payroll system in the service.

The project implementation commenced at the Bureau of Public Service Reforms before its management was transferred to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation in October 2008.

The project went live in April 2007 with seven pilot ministries, departments and agencies and its objective include centralized payment of salaries; aid manpower planning and budgeting as well as facilitate convenient staff remuneration payment with minimal wastage.

Over 447 MDAs are already on the IPPIS platform while others are expected to be enrolled to facilitate a uniform and harmonized payment option that is capable of voiding corrupt intentions of some unscrupulous elements in the civil service bent on damaging the integrity of public sector reforms.