• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Pensioners’ money is now free of fraud – says PTAD boss

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The coming on board of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), an agency of  Federal Government established in 2013 to manage existing pensioners and officers exempted from the nation’s Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) is giving a new hope of seamless process that would ensure safety, fraud free and enhanced welfare of the pensioners.  Nellie Mayshak, director general and executive secretary of the Agency, in this interview with journalists revealed her mandate and journey so far. Modestus Anaesoronye was there.

What does PTAD represent?

Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) is an agency of the federal government responsible established for the management of the pension of the Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS), that is, pensioners who are not transiting to new contributory pension scheme.

We are talking about pensioners who have retired before June 2007. PTAD was established in August 2013 in compliance with the provisions of section 30 sub-section (2) (a) of the Pension Reform Act of 2004 (now amended in 2014) . This is now restated in section 42 (1) of the 2014 Act.

PTAD is made up of the following pension offices; Civil Service Pension, Police Pension, Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension and Treasury Funded Parastatal’s Pension. However, in accordance with another Act of the National Assembly, Military Pension and Security Agencies Pension were exempted from the consolidation and from PTAD.

What is the mandate of this directorate?

PTAD is expected to make budgetary estimates for existing pensioners and officers exempted from this scheme under section 5 (1) (b) of the Act, as well as prepare and submit the monthly payroll of pensioners to the office of Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) for direct payment from the budgetary allocation maintained with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

On the other hand, we are to issue payment instructions to the office of AGF, maintain a comprehensive database of pensioners under their respective jurisdiction as well as ascertain deficits in pension payments, if any, to existing pensioners or the categories of officers exempted under section 5 (1)(b) of the Act, and carry out such other functions aimed at ensuring the welfare of pensioners.

PTAD is also to render monthly returns on pensioners, deceased pensioners, details of Next of Kin (NOK) of deceased pensioners and on any other issue as may be required from time to time.

What has been the achievement so far?

We have been able to consolidate the three pension offices (CSPD, PPD & CIPPD), and Pension Departments /Boards of Trustees of all federal funded parastatals, improve monthly pension payments, which are promptly and electronically paid through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), as well as unveiling mechanism for tracking failed payments to pensioners.

The directorate was able to restore payment of monthly pension to genuine pensioners removed from payroll, even as we successfully conducted a Mini-Verification of some categories of Police and Civil Service pensioners and have been placed on the payroll.

PTAD also established a robust complaints resolution mechanism, improves services for pensioners, tackling of reported fraud cases in collaboration with pensioners, unions and agencies, such as; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Moreover, we have digitalised pension payments, with huge efforts underway to move from manual to automatic systems and processes, even as we have improved understanding and collaboration with unions, banks and other partners.  Above all, there has not been a single incident of misappropriation of pension funds since PTAD came on board in 2013, thus, exhibiting zero tolerance for corruption.

What are the projections for the future?

We are planning a Verification and Biometric Data Capture exercise. This will allow us to establish a comprehensive, authentic and credible database for pensioners under the DBS, thus, ensuring effective planning and management of pensions.

This system will also eliminate ghost pensioners, duplication of payments, correct and eradicate anomalies such as; over payments and short payments of pensioners. We want to enrol new pensioners, establish State offices and a PTAD call centre to interact better with the pensioners, especially the retired ones.

What challenges does the agency face currently?

Well, lack of adequate awareness by some stakeholders about PTAD, as well as wrong impression of PTAD by some pensioners and critical stakeholders continue to pose a threat on the operations of the directorate. Moreover, we have huge pension liabilities, absence of credible database and resistance to change/entrenched interest are equally a clog in the wheel of our progress.

The federal government is planning to implement the 33 percent pension increase beginning from October, this year. What is going to be the benefit of this move to pensioners in the country?

The good news is that the federal government has been working hard to implement the commitment in the implementation of the 33 per cent to civilian pensioners and that will take effect, hopefully, from this month (October).

The issue of arrears is a much bigger one and the federal government has a committee in place, headed by the secretary to government and the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) to craft out modalities for addressing the arrears of that 33 per cent. That is quite large.

There have been some complaints about some persons not being on the payroll. How are you addressing this?

There are actually pensioners whose names were not on the pay roll and we don’t know why it is so. Those are some of the issues PTAD is trying to address. We have seen people who have retired for certain number of years, but their names are not on the payroll and from the look of things, they are genuine pensioners.  This is what we are trying to address.

There are lapses in the system which would require a long period of time to fix. Some are experiencing short-payment, and then, there is a large set of people whose names were dropped by the former managers of the pension scheme. So, we are trying to clear those categories, and we are addressing them one by one.

How many years will this new 33 per cent pension increase implementation cover?

The pension increase is similar to the salary increase that took place between 2009 and 2010.  So, the salary increase is of 2010. If we are paying anyarrears, because it scattered, it is not the same for everybody. It will take effect from around June, 2010. It is almost four years of arrears we are talking about.

What is your advice for pensioners?

We have words of encouragement for them. When we listen to their complaint, we are encouraged that they feel encouraged to express their grievances. The reality is that our pension is a very serious concern and it is something that touches every one of us, including the president and the minister of finance who is responsible for PTAD.

My advice for them is to let them know that their issue is very topical, and it’s one of the priorities of government and as a result of that, the president and the minister are working very hard to address the concerns of pensioners across the country.

Earlier, you talked about parastatals pension. How is it going to work?

We are concerned with parastatals, which are funded by the federal government. That is why we called them federally-funded parastatals.  The pensions of these parastatals are coming directly from the budget and fall under PTAD.

Currently, there are about 300 parastatals. In universities; every university has its own pension programme and administrator. So, we are going to bring all of them under PTAD and manage them just like the other groups that we have under the agency.

It is good for the system and federal government to have one single location, where pension is managed, so that they know the number of people and how well the pension fund are managed.

Modestus Anaesoronye