The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Owerri zone on Wednesday, lashed out at the Nigerian Technology Development Agency (NITDA), for announcing to the nation that the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) suggested for payment of its staff by ASUU, has failed integrity test.
The zone stated he position at a press briefing held at the ASUU secretariat of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, titled ‘NITDA: a clear and present danger to our country, Nigeria.’
A major issue driving the ongoing ASUU strike, is the reluctance of the Federal Government to deploy the UTAS, as a payment platform for the salaries and other entitlements of academic staff in public Universities.
Speaking on behalf of the six ASUU branches that comprise the zone, the ASUU Owerri zone Coordinator, Uzo Onyebinama, noted that UTAS is a brain child of ASUU, borne out of the patriotic zeal to improve financial and programme accounting in public universities, after it became obvious that the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) had contributed to and compounded corruption in public universities.
According to him, the UTAS is home grown and is compliant with global best practice in the industry.
“IPPIS has been variously described as an instrument of corruption.
“According to the Head of Service of the Federation, civil servants with fake employment letters have infiltrated IPPIS ( Daily Trust 6th April, 2022).
“The 2019 report of the Auditor General of the Federation indicated that several flaws in the operation of IPPIS have led to loss of government resources and put the integrity of staff data into question.
“The report identified financial irregularities amounting to over 4.394 billion naira on the platform.
“This is in addition to the duplication of staff personnel data and irregular entry of data for workers (Nation, January 9, 2022).
“The irregularities identified in the report are monumental.
“This is as expected since IPPIS was not subjected to any integrity tests as was UTAS,” he said.
Onyebinama regretted that in spite of these negative reports about the performance of IPPIS, the agents of government who are beneficiaries of the irregularities associated with IPPIS, are insisting that IPPIS is the best payment platform Nigeria ever had and are cajoling and compelling genuine employees of the Federal Government to enroll in IPPIS while at the same time inflating the payroll of the government with their cronies who are not employees of the Federal Government.
He revealed that recently, NITDA, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy announced to the nation that UTAS had failed integrity tests, an announcement he said, was made while the tests were on going.
“It was a sore thumb and it stuck out.
“If NITDA is picking up a fight against ASUU, for declaring that the promotion and appointment of the Minister of communications and Digital Economy to the rank of Professor by the Federal University of Technology Owerri was unmerited and without due process, it should come clear.
“That announcement by NITDA was to blackmail the union and put UTAS in bad light.
“By that act, NITDA has sabotaged the efforts of its principal, the Federal Government to resolve the issues surrounding the lingering ASUU strike.
“The deployment of UTAS as the payment platform for academic staff in public universities is a central issue in the resolution of the strike,” the ASUU said.
The Union warned the NITDA that it cannot be intimidated, noting that a software that scored 99.3% after integrity tests, cannot be said to have failed such integrity tests and querying why the IPPIS was not subjected to integrity tests in the first instance.
It said; “The action of NITDA is clearly unpatriotic, totally unacceptable and a great dis -service to our father land.
“Agents of the Federal Government who engage and indulge in such acts for whatever personal benefits and gains are a ‘clear and present danger’ to our country Nigeria.
“A stitch in time, as always will save nine.
“We therefore call on well-meaning Nigerians to come to the rescue.
“The struggle will continue.”