*Lack of synergy among agencies stalls post-retirement training
By Ndubuisi Francis
The federal government has so far paid a total of N409,915,331,675.45 as severance benefits to ex-workers and death benefits of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) disclosed on Monday.
The BPE, however, regretted that lack of cohesion among the agencies with the responsibility to organise a planned post-retirement training for former PHCN staff had stalled the exercise, adding that as a result of this, funding for the assignment is now in jeopardy.
In a statement released Monday, the BPE said the payment streams for the former PHCN workers were categorised into two, including severance payments to former active staff of the defunct power utility company as well as payment to retirees/death benefits which PHCN could not pay before it handed over to the successor companies.
In the statement issued by its Head, Public Communications, Mrs. Amina Othman Tukur, the BPE said the list submitted to it by the PHCN had a total number of 47,913, adding that out of the number, 47,275 representing 99 per cent had been fully paid.
It added that these were forwarded to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) for payment in 36 batches.
Giving further details, the BPE said out of 638 outstanding active staff, there were 167 duplicate and blank spaces on the list, while 414 never turned up for verification.
Similarly, 25 have been audited and are awaiting cash-backing, nine with initial documentation problems will soon be audited, while 23 have documentation problems.
The statement noted that in the course of the verification, 81 cases were found to be short paid, which have been corrected and cash-backed, while 180 cases recently treated and recomputed for short-payment are awaiting cash-backing.
The BPE also disclosed that 4,438 PHCN retirees/NOKs were submitted to it in eight batches, adding that to date, 3,131 representing 71 per cent of the beneficiaries, have been fully paid their entitlements with 1,307 yet to be paid.
It noted: “This is as a result of 15 of them having error in serial numbering, 66 possible duplicates in submissions which 14 of them have been recently audited; and
“196 have been cleared and are awaiting cash-backing, 392 cleared and sent to the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for pension related benefits and 694 to the Presidential Initiative for Continuous Auditing (PICA) for Gratuities and Deceased Benefits.”
On the two per cent union deductions, the Bureau said a total of N7,485,291,722.89 has already been paid to the defunct PHCN unions’ account from batches 1-36 it has already written to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) to credit the unions’ account for the remaining deductions.
On the 10 per cent equity shareholding for staff of the defunct utility company, the BPE explained that in accordance with the privatisation policy, workers of enterprises that are slated for privatisation are entitled to be allotted some percentage of the outstanding shares of the company, adding that in the case of the PHCN, it reserved 10 per cent of the balance of 40 per cent for workers of the successor companies.
The BPE stressed: “The ten (10) per cent shares due to workers of the power companies would be allotted to them after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) completes its assignment on the valuation of the investments done by state in the distribution companies. The valuation would form the basis on which shares will be allotted to each state government.
“Regarding the non-computation of 16 months’ entitlements of staff of the defunct PHCN, the Bureau said that during one of the engagements with the unions on January 13, 2014 at the Federal Ministry of Power, it was agreed that 7.5 per cent employer pension contribution of July 2012 to 31st October, 2013 will be paid by the federal government (Market Operator).
“Though the decision had been communicated to the Market Operator, the unions suggested that BPE should escalate the matter to the Vice-President and the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) for consideration and resolution. Papers to the NCP on the matter are being completed.”
BPE said some of the ex-workers and pensioners/NOKs are having difficulties accessing their entitlements since 2013 when their payments were cash-backed due to invalid account details such as non-NUBAN account numbers, wrong account names/numbers, and wrong bank names.
The challenges also encountered in the case of pensioners/NOKs include invalid retirement savings account (RSA) details such as wrong RSA account names, wrong RSA pins, wrong account RSA, multiple RSA accounts, failed payments attempted once by officials of the various paying banks and bank account detail dormancy.
The Bureau said it was collaborating with the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) to resolve the problems.