• Monday, July 15, 2024
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How PTAD ended pensioners’ woes, resolved payment and welfare crises

How PTAD ended pensioners’ woes, resolved payment and welfare crises

Described as a child of circumstance, the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), which came as a rescue for Nigerian senior citizens that were almost frustrated in getting their monthly pensions, will be 10 years this month. MODESTUS ANAESORONYE reviews its operations, inherited challenges and milestones.

The much-agonised Nigerian pension system under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) characterised by fraud, corruption, mismanagement and neglect of senior citizens before the Pension Reform Act in 2004 has changed with the coming of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD).

Prior to the establishment of PTAD, the management of the Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS), also known as the ‘old pension scheme’ had a very bad reputation.

The scheme before now was plagued with myriads of challenges with over 50,000 complaints inherited by PTAD from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service at the time of its establishment in 2013.

Over 30,000 qualified pensioners were not on payroll while more than 50,000 ghost pensioners were on the payroll.

In total, PTAD inherited 268,897 pensioners on the payrolls of the old pension offices at inception.

As at December 2022, PTAD’s payroll stood at 226,693 after a lot of cleansing, elimination of ghost pensioners and addition of eligible pensioners hitherto not on payroll with a total of N754 billion in monthly pensions paid from January 2015 to December 2022.

Overall, the directorate has saved billions of naira from being paid to over 50,000 ghost pensioners.

Before this time, the government and its agencies were accused of misappropriation of pension funds, neglect of pensioners’ welfare, and other malfeasance. The public outcry led to widely publicized public hearings and criminal proceedings against suspected pension thieves.

Pensioners suffered to get their pensions, and there were reports of pensioners sleeping under staircases and on floors of pension offices. Verification was hard on pensioners and many suffered from the stress of crowds, queuing for long hours, among others.

Many pensioners did not receive their monthly pensions as and when due while others were owed years of pension arrears and gratuity. Similarly, many Next of Kins (NOKs) of deceased pensioners did not get of death benefits of loved ones, some up to 10 years or more, after the death of the officer.

Against this backdrop, PTAD was established in August 2013 to consolidate and manage pensions under the DBS for pensioners who would not transit into the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) introduced in 2004 during the pension reform.

PTAD, an agency of the Federal Government is regulated by the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and established in compliance with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act of 2004, repealed and re-enacted in 2014, which provides the agency the power to consolidate old pension’s offices.

The Directorate categorise pensioners in the old scheme under Parastatals Pension Department (PaPD), Police Pension Department (PPD), Civil Service Pension Department (CSPD) and Customs Immigration and Prisons Pension Department (CIPPD).

Chioma Ejikeme, executive secretary, PTAD in a presentation titled: “The New Narrative for Pension Administration for the DBS” at the 2023 Stakeholders Engagement, South East Zone disclosed that over 50,000 complaints were inherited by PTAD from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service while over 30,000 qualified pensioners were not on the payroll.

She stated that before they took over the administration of the old pension scheme, there was no clear way for pensioners to get their complaints, issues, and concerns addressed which made so many pensioners give up on the Federal Government.

She said, “PTAD also inherited unfunded liabilities, 33 per cent pension arrears; gratuity and death benefits; disorganised, error-prone manual computation/calculation of pension benefits; lack of adequate/appropriate office space to accommodate walk-in pensioners; inadequate staffing of offices and provision of appropriate technology work tools; poor pension file management leading to damaged records and lost hope; and rude and unruly behaved pensioners”.

Ejikeme said PTAD has sanitized the DBS with major achievements over the last nine years with consolidation of old pension offices, payroll due diligence, onboarding process to PTAD pension payroll, and determination of inherited liabilities.

She further stated that the overall success is not just the result of deploying information technology, more critically; it has been a result of political will and strong support from the last administration and key stakeholders, including strategic and strong leadership at PTAD.

“The narrative has changed due to efficient and effective deployment of available resources and human capital, and the investment in human capital development; creativity, initiative, passion, commitment and empathy of PTAD management and staff; and collaboration and support from pensioners and their union representatives.

“We have worked hard to address challenges and transform the management of the DBS in several significant ways that include management of pensioners’ files and records, validation of pensioner’s computation and calculation of pension benefits; management of the monthly pension payroll; resolution of pensioners’ complaints; and settlement and payment of 33 per cent pension arrears, death benefits, among others.

In the last close to Ten years, PTAD created a field verification process that respects the dignity of senior citizens, multiple verification centres were used so that crowds would not be too large. A simple four-step process from arrival to completion of verification, to minimize stress was created. All of these were done in a conducive environment inside event centres or halls fully air-conditioned with chairs and tables for pensioners to sit. They were served lunch and water. There were also provisions of wheelchairs and Stand-by Ambulances or First Aid, at centres.

“We deployed mobile verification to ensure no qualified pensioners are left uncaptured. Pensioners that were aged, infirm, sick, or physically challenged were also captured by sending mobile teams to pensioners’ homes, in hospitals among others. Based on this, PTAD Mobile Teams have visited over 80 different cities, towns and villages, and countless hospitals across the entire nation, including every state capital”, she added.

“It is pertinent to note that PTAD has intentionally and consistently been working on achieving positive and sustainable change in the DBS pension management for the almost 10 years of its operation. It is worth mentioning that PTAD would be ten by August 2023.

Kabiru Yusuf, PTAD director, Parastatals Pension Department (PaPD), on his part noted that ghost pensioners have been eliminated from the system.

He said they carried out two major removals of ineligible people from the payroll of parastatal pensioners.

“The first one was done in 2019 when we did an assignment with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System to ascertain people who have valid BVN and those who do not. When we did the exercise, we removed 5,834 people from the payroll. The monthly pension implication of the people removed is N287.8 million. When we did the removal, we created a complaint resolution channel for those who have genuine BVN to send their complaints to us. After the complaints came in, those that we have restored back on payroll from 2019 to date are 2,902 and we paid them N175.8 million and this is the savings we have made from paying pensions to those who do not have valid documentation but continue to be on the payroll.

“The second removal that we did was done in October 2020. We started our verification for parastatal in April 2019 and finished in November 2019. The Executive Secretary later gave six to 10 months moratorium for people who do not have the opportunity to come for the verification so that they can come to our offices to get it done. When the moratorium lapsed in October 2020, we compared the payroll to the database of verified pensioners. We were able to remove people who are on payroll but not verified numbering 20,191 from the payroll. The monthly pension implication of this is N741 million.

“As at date, only 4947 have complained and were restored to payroll. So, if you are looking for real evidence of people who have been on the payroll before PTAD was established and were collecting pensions that they are not qualified or eligible to take, this is the evidence. In essence, 15,194 ineligible people were put on the payroll and were collecting pensions for no just cause. These are the ‘ghost pensioners”.

“Ultimately, this is a savings of almost half a billion naira per month when you do a rough calculation of N741 million from N289 million. So, PTAD is saving over N452 million monthly from October 2020 till date. We also saved huge billions by removing many pensioners who have died but their beneficiaries were still fraudulently receiving their pension”.

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Godwin Ikechukwu Abumisi, national president, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) commenting on the new system, said pensioners have never had it as good as they did under the last administration.

He stated that PTAD paid them their monthly pension and paid adjustments arising from increases in salary, particularly from increases as a result of the 2019 minimum wage.

“We are very grateful and happy with PTAD. Some Nigerians say so many things about former President Buhari wrongly. But we pensioners are very happy with him because he took care of us.”

“We are hoping that the new administration of President Tinubu will also do as much as he has done for us and even better. We are optimistic because while he was governor of Lagos state, he took very good care of pensioners”.

Speaking specifically on what they look forward to, he said: “First of all, we want President Tinubu to continue payment of monthly pension as at when due; secondly, we want him to address the remaining backlog of gratuities and pay; thirdly, we want him to sit back and think about the position of state governors who don’t pay pensions.”

The problem we have with the payment of pensions in Nigeria is that state governors do not pay. Many of them are owing about 27 months’ arrears of monthly pension. That is more than two years. They do not care about the pensioners. Their position is that pensioners are deadwood and we are not deadwood. We are alive. We want President Tinubu to look at this.

Mohammed Abba Dakande, NUP vice president, Northwest on his part said since the coming of PTAD, they have found an agency that interacted with them in love.

“PTAD is doing their best to see that all that has to do with pension under the old scheme is in order. They have eliminated fraud in the system. Issues of verification have been simplified, such that those who cannot attend because they are either too old or feeble are visited in their locality by the agency.

Elder Ayo Kumapayi, NUP national vice president, Southwest describe the immediate past president as the most pension-friendly president.

“He is the only president that adhered fully to the constitution as it affects pensioners by way of reviewing pension every five years or at any time when wages are increased.”

He did it consistently and by the time he left, he was not owing federal civil servant of state pension any federal share of pension.