• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Inflation-adjusted wages and biometric attendance: A win-win national policy for Nigerian labour unions and government

20240204_114144_0000

Introduction

In the quest for balanced economic development and just labour practices in Nigeria, adjusting the minimum wage to reflect inflationary trends stands as a pivotal move towards fair compensation for workers. Yet, this adjustment alone is not sufficient. It needs to be paired with strategic initiatives aimed at bolstering productivity and rooting out systemic inefficiencies in the workforce. The adoption of a comprehensive national policy mandating the use of biometric time attendance systems emerges as a key solution, offering substantial benefits for both the government and its employees. This approach, which I have previously discussed and exemplified through case studies from Gombe State, India, and South Africa, highlights the transformative impact of biometric technology in enhancing the efficiency of the public sector. The implementation of such systems stands as a testament to the potential of leveraging technology to foster a more accountable and productive workforce, thereby propelling Nigeria towards its goals of economic growth and equitable labour practices.

Read also: ZKTeco commences biometric technology operations in Nigeria

The Context of Nigeria’s Wage and Productivity Challenge

Nigeria’s challenges with inflation and ghost workers in federal and state civil services are twin hurdles in achieving economic stability and workforce efficiency. Increasing the minimum wage is a necessary response to inflation, yet it must be aligned with policies ensuring that this wage increase translates into enhanced productivity. This alignment is critical in fostering a fair and sustainable wage system.

Case Study 1: Gombe State’s Biometric Initiative
We have a good example in Gombe State that can be a model for all states and the federal government. Gombe State, grappling with fiscal constraints due to reduced Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocations and the burden of increased personnel costs from the new minimum wage policy, embarked on a strategic biometric screening initiative. In partnership with Human Capital Managers LTD and ZKTECO West Africa, the state government implemented the Integrated Payroll Payment Gateway and Human Resource Information Management System (G-SIPHMIS). This comprehensive system was aimed at overhauling the state’s payroll and human resource management processes.

The G-SIPHMIS system was designed to meticulously authenticate the identity of each employee through biometric verification, thereby ensuring the physical presence and actual employment of individuals on the payroll. This initiative led to the identification and removal of 1,099 ghost workers – individuals fraudulently receiving salaries without rendering services. The elimination of these non-existent workers resulted in substantial financial savings exceeding N50 million. This case represents a significant step in leveraging technology to combat wage fraud, enhance workforce management, and direct government resources more efficiently and transparently.

Case Study 2: India’s Aadhaar-Linked Biometric Attendance System
India’s Aadhaar-linked Biometric Attendance System (BAS) offers an expansive view of the potential and scalability of biometric systems in public administration. Enacted through the Aadhaar Act of 2016, the BAS mandated the biometric registration of all government employees, representing a landmark move in tackling absenteeism and attendance fraud in the public sector.

The BAS operates by linking an employee’s real-time attendance data with their unique Aadhaar number, which is a 12-digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India. This linkage ensures that attendance records are accurately maintained and authenticated, significantly reducing instances of proxy attendance. The implementation of this system across various government departments led to notable improvements in employee punctuality and discipline, directly translating to increased efficiency in public service delivery. The BAS serves as a robust model for nations seeking to modernize their attendance and workforce management systems with a focus on transparency and accountability.

Case Study 3: South Africa’s Biometric Attendance Policy
South Africa’s journey towards integrating biometric systems within its public sector is a testament to the potential synergy between policy and technology. This integration is in line with the Public Service Act and the Public Finance Management Act, reflecting a national commitment to elevating workplace productivity and government efficiency.

The introduction of biometric systems in South Africa involved the deployment of biometric scanners and software across various government departments. These systems enabled the accurate tracking of employee attendance, ensuring that all government workers adhered to their stipulated working hours. This measure not only improved individual productivity but also enhanced the overall efficiency of public service delivery. The South African case stands as an exemplar for other nations, demonstrating the effectiveness of policy-driven technological solutions in transforming public sector management.

The Impact of Biometric Systems
Biometric time attendance systems have shown immense potential in transforming the workforce landscape, as evidenced in the case studies of Gombe State, India, and South Africa. These systems do more than just monitor attendance; they embed a culture of accountability and transparency within the workforce. By leveraging biometric data such as fingerprints or iris scans, these systems ensure that only genuine employees are accounted for and compensated. This is particularly impactful in sectors prone to attendance fraud or ghost worker issues.

These systems also bring a data-driven approach to workforce management. With accurate attendance records, management can analyze productivity patterns, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions regarding staffing and resource allocation. For Nigeria, where efficient resource utilization is critical for sustainable growth, these insights are invaluable. They allow for a more equitable distribution of labour, ensuring that wage increases are matched with actual labour contributions, thereby justifying the cost to the government and taxpayers.

The Way Forward for Nigeria
For Nigeria, adopting a biometric time attendance system as a national policy, in conjunction with an annual review of the minimum wage, is a strategic move toward economic and labor reform. This policy would align wage increases with inflation, ensuring that workers’ earnings are in step with the cost of living, while simultaneously maintaining the integrity and productivity of the workforce.

Implementing this policy requires a multi-faceted approach, including technological infrastructure, legal frameworks, and workforce training. The government would need to invest in robust biometric systems, legislate their usage, and train employees and administrators in their operation.

This approach not only modernizes workforce management but also demonstrates the government’s commitment to fair labour practices and economic justice.

Conclusion
The successful integration of biometric time attendance systems in Gombe State, India, and South Africa provides a blueprint for Nigeria. As Nigeria strives to balance economic growth with fair labour practices, the adoption of this technology is a step towards modern governance.

It offers a practical solution for enhancing workforce productivity and ensuring wage fairness. By adopting biometric systems, the Nigerian government at all levels can lead the way for other nations, establishing a new standard in accountable, efficient governance, and equitable compensation. This move would mark a significant stride in Nigeria’s journey towards becoming a more transparent, efficient, and fair society, setting a precedent for others to follow.