Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) Executive Secretary, Dr Chioma Ejikeme in this question and answer session, sheds more light on NAHCO Pensioners and the alleged irregularities in their final entitlements.
Q1: Can you tell us how many beneficiaries are involved and expecting payment?
A total of 1,130 ex-workers were verified during the nationwide verification exercise carried out for all PaPD pensioners and which was concluded in November 2019. Following the review of the verification database of ex-workers consequent to the verification exercise, the verified numbers can be broken down as follows;
|Flagged Files For Further Investigation||79|
Q2: Kindly mention the total amount approved for the beneficiaries of NAHCO.
PTAD is not aware of any “approved amount” for the ex-workers of NAHCO. In addition, it has not received any fund for the payment of severance benefits to ex-workers of NAHCO. The payments made so far to this category of ex-workers has been funded from the Directorate’s savings from pension releases for the payment of monthly pension to pensioners on its payroll.
Q3: Most beneficiaries do not have an idea about their payouts. Can PTAD apply the Pension Act template to calculate the benefits as against NAHCO’s Condition of service? We hear that PTAD has been using the Pension Act to calculate payouts for pensioners in other organisations, but refused to use same act to calculate for ex-workers of NAHCO.
Our computation model is based primarily on entitlements mentioned and defined in the NAHCO Staff Conditions of Service Handbook. In addition, we have added some terminal benefits mentioned in Public Service Rules (PSR), 2008 Edition, which have not been stated/defined in the NAHCO Staff Conditions of Service Handbook. In view of this, the entitlements computed for each NAHCO ex-staff or the next of kin (NOK) as applicable, comprised of the following;
- Long Service Gratuity (subject to achieving a minimum of 10yrs in service)
- Leave Allowance (subject to achieving at least 6 months in service)
- One (1) Month Salary (in lieu of notice)
- Disengagement Allowance
- Repatriation Allowance
Every beneficiary that subscribes to sms alert with his/her bankers will receive sms notification of payment into his/her account. However, in order to get clarity about the details of the computation and parameters adopted towards determining the amount paid, the Directorate is working on getting the email address of each beneficiary, so as to send a scanned copy of the computation print out for their record.
Q4: Can PTAD pay all outstanding benefits without any deduction and without any further delay, as just one approval was received for all?
The Directorate as part of its due diligence protocol for on-boarding of new or existing pensioners, usually liaises with relevant Agencies to collate relevant data, such as nominal roll, salary structure, conditions of service, details of previous payments etc. on the affected ex-workers. In this instance, the Directorate had through its collaboration with Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) (that was responsible for the privatisation exercise) and NAHCO Aviance, gathered very useful information about the ex-workers of NAHCO, including a list of 936 ex-workers that were paid some amounts classified as Gratuity Benefit by BPE/NAHCO and computed based on an effective date of August 2005.
Considering the fact that some amounts related to terminal benefits have been paid to the ex-workers by NAHCO/BPE, the amount paid by the Directorate is the net amount determined after deducting this earlier payment. Whatever is payable as outstanding net amount to NAHCO ex-staff is therefore a function of the amount earlier paid to them. In view of this, the Directorate does not make any deduction from the amount computed and determined as the outstanding net benefits due to each ex-worker of NAHCO.
Q5: Is PTAD paying ex- NAHCO staff based on their dates of conversion as against date of employment in the list sent to PTAD? Some beneficiaries claim this has made PTAD to deduct one year for all ex-workers in their calculation.
The computation of the severance benefits of the ex-workers is based on their respective career records covering the date of first appointment, (and not date of conversion), date/details of last promotion and date of disengagement.
Q6: Can we have a background about payments to ex- NAHCO staff?
The severance payments currently being made to ex-workers of NAHCO has been determined based on the provisions in the NAHCO conditions of service that was in force at the time of their disengagement, and related provisions of the Public Service Rule. The entitlements cover the following;
- Gratuity based on qualifying criteria (in addition to domestic allowance for Managers)
- Repatriation Allowance
- Disengagement Allowance
- One month in lieu of notice
- Annual Leave Allowance
Q7: What exactly is the duty of PTAD?
The statutory mandate of PTAD is the management of pensioners of the Federal Government who retired under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS), a pension scheme that was in force prior to the establishment of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) that came into being through the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004 (now repealed and re-enacted as PRA 2014).
This comprises of four major category of pensioners, and which are managed under specific Pension Operational departments as follows;
|1||Police||Police Pension Department (PPD)|
|2||Customs, Immigration & Prisons||Customs, Immigration & Prisons Pension Department (CIPPD)|
|3||Civil Servants||Civil Service Pension Department (CSPD)|
|4||Parastatals & Treasury Funded Agencies||Parastatals Pension Department (PaPD)|
Q8: Currently, how many beneficiaries have received their severance benefits? How much has been paid out and how many are remaining? How much balance to pay?
As at date, a total of 222 ex-workers had been paid a total amount of NGN141,381,451.71 in four batches, between 19th June and 28th July 2020.
Considering the total number of 786 ex-workers that were classified as qualified, and the total number of 222 ex-workers indicated as paid, there remains a total of 564 ex-workers files to be reviewed and computed.
Since the severance entitlements payable is a function of the respective ex-workers career records and date/details of promotion, it is not possible, at this stage, to determine the amount outstanding to be paid until each of these ex-workers files are completely computed.
Q9: Why did PTAD decide to batch payments? When is the next batch of payout?
The severance benefits being computed and paid to ex-NAHCO workers is a one-off final payment. In view of this, there is need to exercise appropriate care and diligence to avoid any error that could result to wrong/overpayments that may not be recoverable from the beneficiaries. It is also important to note that the Directorate is operating at significantly less than its full capacity due to the guidelines on the control of the Coronavirus Disease.
The Directorate is currently reviewing its computation application to adjust the disengagement date of the ex-workers of NAHCO from 31 August 2005 that was hitherto applied on computations already made and paid so far, to 30th November 2007 being the effective date of the Agency’s privatisation as confirmed by BPE. The computation and payment of the severance benefits will resume as soon as the adjustment is completed and conclusively tested.
It is important to note that the Directorate will, on the completion of computation and payment of net benefits due to the remaining 564 ex-workers, which would be based on a revised disengagement date of 30th November 2007, go back to re-compute the entitlements of the 222 ex-workers that had been paid so far, using the revised disengagement date of 30th November 2007, to determine any additional benefit due to them and pay same accordingly.
Q10: Please tell us government efforts towards solving the plight of pensioners?
The Directorate has in line with its statutory mandate and working with relevant stakeholders strive to promptly pay the monthly pension of all pensioners on its payroll, on a regular basis. In addition, the Directorate has, based on funds received from the Federal Government in 2019, successfully paid the accrued arrears of 33% pension increment to all qualified Parastatals pensioners on its payroll in December 2019, while pensioners of the other Departments had earlier been paid before this time.
Furthermore, it is currently carrying out a special project to revalidate, compute monthly pension and thereafter on-board all pensioners under the Civil Service Pension Department that had been earlier verified but are yet to be enrolled for monthly pension, and thereafter pay the accrued pension arrears due to them. Arrears have been paid to these pensioners and they have been put on the payroll. The project is on-going.
The Directorate has also continued to compute and pay the accrued arrears of pension benefits due to Next of Kins (NoKs) of deceased pensioners across all the four pension operational departments. This is in addition to the regular review and resolution of sundry pension complaints from pensioners with consequential payment of any accrued arrears due. It is also currently working with related stakeholders towards the adjustment of monthly pension following the recent minimum wage increase approved and implemented for Civil Servants, by the Federal Government.
Q11: How soon can the payouts to former staff of NAHCO be completed?
It is important to note that the response received from NAHCO to the Directorate’s request for relevant information that could aid its due diligence and data gathering exercise preparatory to verification, was not sufficient to include ex-workers of NAHCO as part of the Agencies whose ex-workers were verified and subsequently enrolled in 2017/2018. This challenge with complete and timely information was also responsible for the inability of the Directorate to verify the ex-workers of NAHCO during the Lagos phase of the Directorate’s nationwide verification exercise that was held from 23rd April to 9th May 2019. It wasn’t until the third phase of the nationwide verification exercise held in the South-West from 15th July to 24th July 2019 that the Directorate resolved to verify the ex-workers of NAHCO, and resolve the issues related to incomplete data, at the end of the verification exercise.
The information currently applied for the ongoing computation and determination of the ex-workers severance benefits was received towards the end of January 2020, and the Directorate was in the process of configuring and testing its computation application, when the lockdown occasioned by the global pandemic came into effect. This explanation has become necessary to show the extent of the Directorate’s effort and desire for the inclusion of NAHCO ex-workers for verification and subsequent computation and payment of the severance benefits due to them.
As earlier explained, our operational capacity has been seriously constrained by the social distancing and other preventive restrictions adopted by the Federal Government as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hence it is not possible to give a definite timeline, but we will continue to strive towards ensuring the exercise is completed as soon as possible.
Q12: What are the impediments to prompt disbursements of pensioners’ benefits?
While funding remains one of the important resources towards the prompt disbursement of pension benefits to the pensioners of the Directorate, the Federal Government needs to be commended for providing funds for the prompt payment of monthly pension, in spite of the current economic situation and consequent financial constraints.
At this time however, the Directorate’s limited capacity in terms of available operational working hours, which has been further exacerbated by the restrictions protocol adopted to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic, has become the biggest impediment and challenge faced by the Directorate in its resolve to expedite the computation, determination and disbursement of accrued pension arrears and related benefits to its pensioners.
Our operational reality is that, in spite of investment in technology and processes, appropriately qualified/competent personnel along with sufficient time are both required to input the relevant data, interface with the relevant IT systems, towards arriving at the desired computational outcome, which in turn has to go through stringent Internal and Federal Audit control checks, for each pensioner/NoK file, before its eventual enrolment for monthly pension, and subsequent payment of accrued pension arrears to the pensioner or one-off arrears to a Next of Kin.
Q13: Beneficiaries are disgruntled about their payouts because there are no explanations about them. Is there any way PTAD can hold a discussion with the pensioners to have granular breakdowns of benefits?
The Directorate is not averse to holding a stakeholder session to discuss with respective category of ex-workers or pensioners when such exercise like this is carried out, and this indeed has been the norm. However, this approach has become virtually impossible due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, consequent lockdown and preventive restrictions applied to prevent further spread of the virus. In spite of this, we are working on setting up an online application that each beneficiary can access to get detailed breakdown of their benefits and print-off their computation slip, if they so wish.
In addition, the Directorate is working on an arrangement wherein all beneficiaries will be contacted through their mobile numbers to provide their respective email addresses that a scanned copy of their computation sheet, which provides details of the career records and related parameters adopted towards computation of their gross severance entitlements and the amount deducted to determine the net amount due and paid.
It is important to note that the severance benefits of any ex-worker is personal to each beneficiary and cannot be shared publicly to avoid breaking the requirements of confidentiality. Hence, the best the Directorate can do with respect to publication, and which it has been doing, is to publish names of beneficiaries in each of the payment batches, so that they in turn, can monitor the payment in their respective bank accounts. However, given the malicious false information being peddled about the Directorate on this exercise in the media, it may resolve to publish the full details of the gross benefit computed for each beneficiary, the respective amount deducted being previous sums paid by BPE/NAHCO and the net benefit determined and paid after deduction of this previous payment, in the national dailies.
Any beneficiary that has any concern about the payment made to him/her can send an email to the Directorate’s complaint email address; email@example.com or write a formal letter addressed to the Executive Secretary, PTAD to seek clarification and we would promptly review such complaints and conclusively respond.
Q14: How do you compute workers benefits?
The computation of benefits due to ex-workers is a function of the career details covering date of first appointment, date of disengagement, date/details of last promotion, provisions of ex-workers condition of service and the salary structure of the Agency as applicable.