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FG to create special account for universities

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The federal government has said it was ready to bend backward to create a separate interest generating account for university endowment, research grant and other sources of funding for universities in view of the peculiarities of some of the sources of funding, but was not ready to exclude any sector from the Treasury Single Account system.

The government also said that it has ordered a staff audit of workers employed by the universities since January 2016,pointing out that the employment of such staff by university managers without recourse to budgetary provision and permission from relevant agencies was largely responsible for the shortfall in salaries of university workers.

These are contained in a letter dated August 30, 2017 and signed by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu which formed the basis for talks with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Thursday.

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The meeting which started at about 1.30 pm was still on as at 7.45 pm while filing in this report.

The Minister informed the union that the government cannot exclude any sector from the operation of the TSA because it has been effective in curbing corruption in government.

He blamed manager of the federal universities for the shortfall in the salaries of workers in the universities which he put at six percent, pointing out that university managers has developed the habit of employing workers without recourse to budgetary provisions or permission from relevant authorities.

He said the government has decided to carry out a staff audit of workers so employed from January 2016 to ensure that it confirm with budgetary provision.

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He announced in the letter that the registration of the Nigeria University Pension Management Company will be concluded within the two weeks, adding that the delay has been whether it should be a closed or open PFA.

He said further that the government t has decided not to appeal the judgement of the National Industrial Court and has directed the implementation of the judgement.

On Earned Academic Allowance, the Minister said “the office of the Accountant General and Auditor General of the Federation have developed the instrument and awarded the accounting consulting contracts to commence the forensic audit; the duration of the audit exercise will be determined by professional considerations, although we are confident it shall not be in excess of six months,

“We note your request to mainstream the earned allowance into personnel cost of the budget. This is not Impossible but it is the result of the forensic audit that will determine how this will be done. Furthermore, this will enable us develop a policy that will in future govern the issue of earned allowance.

“Government officials believes that the Staff school issue had already been settled by the court of law. Another union within the system has dragged the matter to court and a ruling was given in favour of the union. Government has said it will not appeal the judgement. The Arrangement as provided for in the 2009 agreements with the unions subsist.

“However, universities that are operating their staff schools as private ventures or on a public private partnership model will be reviewed consistent with the provisions of the 2009 agreement. NUC had been directed to convey the court ruling to all federal universities.”

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On the establishment of the University pension company, the Minister said the government was concerned about the back and forth movement and has identified the cause to be whether the union can have an open or closed PFA, stressing that the issue has been resolved in accordance with the PENCOM act, stressing the the registration of NUPEMCO will be concluded within two weeks.

On short fall in salaries, he said the government was concerned that university managers are doing arbitrary recruitment without recourse to budgetary provisions and in some instances without seeking Nd obtaining approval, adding that this has been responsible for the short fall.

He said further that as part of measures to guard against such recruitment, government will direct all federal universities to conduct a comprehensive staff audit and verify all recruitments made from January 2016 to date to ascertain that they were made in accordance with budgetary provisions.

He said the government has recently constituted a task force to investigate and rectify salary shortfall in both health and education sectors, adding that the problem of fractionalisation of salary will come to an end after the successful completion of the staff audit.

 

He assured them that all unions in the sector will be carried along during the conduct of the audit exercise to ensure the credibility of the exercise.

On TSA, he said it was a system wide policy that has proven to be very potent in curbing financial infractions and wasteful spending in government ministries, agencies and parastatals and provide fiscal control and strong expenditure discipline within the system, adding that the government will not be able to exclude any sector from TSA.

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Instead of exclusion, he said that the recognition of the peculiarities of some of the sources of revenue of universities and the condition often attached to deploying such revenues, the Central Bank of Nigeria has accepted to create separate interest generating accounts for university endowment funds, research grants and such other similar funds.

He said further that the government realized that the first tranche of N200 billion revitalization funds released by government was yet to be fully utilized by the universities, but said he was not in agreement with the suggestion by the union that institutions that failed to access the funds within three months should forfeit it for good.

He said the government fully recognize its responsibility under the 2013 memorandum of understanding to provide funding for revitalisation of universities, but regretted that despite the record of oil revenue received immediately after the MoU was signed, only one tranche was released.

He said it will be extremely be difficult for government to discharge its own part of the MoU on the terms given by the previous government, adding that the only option open to government is to write the union to accept to engage in further discussion to develop a more implementable and sustainable funding plan.

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