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PTAD: Between Nellie Mayshak and unanswered questions by OAGF

Nothing in nature is so decried and yet so universally practiced as falsehood. A mighty, governing lie goes round the world, and has almost banished truth out of it. The greatest annoyance and disturbance of mankind has been from one of these two things, force or fraud; and force often allies with fraud. It is the tongue that drives the world before it and it is hard to assign any one thing but lying, which God and man so unanimously hate; and it is even harder to tell whether it does a greater dishonour to God, or mischief to man. The unlawfulness of lying is grounded upon this, that a lie is properly a sort of species of injustice, and a violation of the right of that person to whom the false speech is directed.

This falsehood, no doubt, has played itself in the recent suspension of the embattled Executive Secretary and Director General of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Mrs. Nellie Mayshak, who was suspended months ago by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun based on allegations that are yet to be proven.

Mayshak was said to have digitised the old pension scheme for effective service delivery to ensure seamless payment of pensioners also brought transparency into the system. PTAD under her watch leveraged on technology to get database of pensioners, which helped the agency, know the actual number of pensioners thus removing many ghost pensioners from the system.

Expressing disappointment over the agency’s inability to follow the blue print of Mayshak, who is described by many as an “outstanding public sector reform expert”, the pensioners also made series of complains about the agency losing the glory and values it was known for while she was in charge.

The baseless rumours that the embattled DG was earning N50-60 million monthly was debunked as false, and described as an act perpetuated by mischief makers to dent her hard earned reputation. It is public knowledge that her salary is subject to approval by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, which advises the Federal and state governments on National Income policy.

Myashak in a reaction to the accusation said, “I did not appoint myself; I do not monitor myself the agency reports directly to the coordinating minister of the economy and the Hon. Minister of Finance, there is a permanent secretary. We are bound by rules of the public services. The office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation is our boss. National Pension Commission (PENCOMM) is our regulator we have a host of institutions agencies of government that we report to that regulate our activities and are truly in support of the effort that we are carrying out in PTAD. We are bound by the rules and we obey all the laws of the public service of Nigeria.”

Of course, her suspension was seen by many especially pensioners and their next of kins across the country as a setback in the transformation of PTAD and have called for her reinstatement, stating that their call became apparent as a result of the gross deterioration in the quality of verification exercise and the non-payment of pensioners since her suspension.

According to reports, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is yet to answer the critical questions on its involvement in a ₦3.6 billion shady deal meant for the Nigeria Rail Way (NRC) pension fund which the OAGF returned ₦2.5 billion of it to the management of the NRC, remitting only about ₦1.1 billion to PTAD.  It was gathered that, the NRC pensioners union and the Nigerian Union of Pensioners have petitioned the National Assembly and PTAD to assist in recovering the fund. The NRC has surreptitiously retained ₦2.5 billion-pension payment, while claiming, the said amount has been returned to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF).

The two bodies, (the OAGF and the NUP Railway) have consistently engaged in buck-passing with regards to refund of the outstanding ₦2.5 billion. According to available information, the OAGF allegedly ignored PENCOM’s intervention to transfer the funds into a PTAD pension account in CBN and illegally kept the fund for almost a year.

Other report also stated that the OAGF is allegedly making direct payment to 1,700 Next of Kins, while PTAD could only transparently validate a list of 900 and only ₦1.5 billion as against the ₦2.7 billion claimed by the OAGF office. This prompted a civil society group to call on the EFCC to investigate and monitor the payment to ensure only genuine beneficiaries are paid and that ₦1.2 billion of the ₦2.7 billion remains in government coffer.”

In a petition by Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) supported with documents, the chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, called on the EFCC to probe fresh discoveries of alleged criminal conversion and embezzlement of pensions by civil servants, other government officials, and pension funds administrators amounting to N200billion.

The group had alleged that “The then Minister of Finance and (Budget Office of the Federation) BOF allegedly released this pension funds to OAGF when the law designated PTAD as the statutory body charged with the payment of pensions. The OAGF allegedly ignored PENCOM’s intervention to transfer the funds into a PTAD pension account in CBN and illegally kept the fund for almost a year.”

It also noted that, PTAD’s attempts to investigate and expose the fraud in the administration of pension funds were stiffly resisted by entrenched interests and influential personalities involved in the act. “These beneficiaries are allegedly influential and very powerful, feasting on missing or “trapped” pension funds, running into hundreds of billions of Naira,” the petition stated.

Giving a breakdown of pension funds allegedly being misappropriated and embezzled, the coalition said, it also include surplus funds with insurance companies, estimated at ₦18,387,737,398.80 billion in one year; ₦91,938,686,994.00 billion in five years and  ₦183,877,373,988.00 billion over the last 10 years.

The allegation further stated “pensioners on less than ₦20,000 monthly pension allegedly helped themselves to ₦330,000 monthly. They overpaid themselves and their friends by over ₦300,000 (three hundred thousand) each month.  PTAD has a list of over 100 of these people. This list consumes about ₦230,362,000.00 (million) annually. Over the last five years, the amount is estimated at ₦1,151,810,000.00 (billion), and in ten years ₦2,303,620,000.00 (billion).”

It was also alleged that the OAGF, went against the law and over PTAD to demand the release of this pension funds from former Minister of Finance, which was clear contravention as the law designated PTAD as the statutory body charged with the payment of pensions.

In view of these disclosures, a cross section of pensioners have described the suspension of the PTAD boss, Mrs Nellie Mayshak as an act of error and gross injustice insisting that the agency has lost its former glory, structure, and policies. Analysts said that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation has many questions to answer regarding the whereabouts of these funds.

Although the minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun had said that the suspension was to give room for investigations of alleged corruption in PTAD under her watch, but pensioners who took to the agency’s facebook page and other conventional forum to pen down their ordeals insisted that the numerous contributions of Mayshak to PTAD should not be swept under the carpet over unproven allegations.

They recalled that while the embattled DG served as PTAD boss she had put smile on the faces of pensioners and their next of kins, they eulogized her policies, and some others wrote recommendation letters lauding her efforts in bringing to an end the gory tales of pensioners stating “but with the current situation of things it is evidently clear that things have fallen apart and the pensioners are back to square one.”

A letter by a pensioner Mr .Samuel A Ajunwa, who hailed Mayshak’s prompt payment of pensions, also commended her conduct of verification exercise, and commitment to pensioner’s welfare. Some pensioners have expressed displeasure over their ill treatment since Mayshak left office and expressed fear that the management of pensions under the defined benefit scheme, which Mayshak upheld, may not live up to its mandate.

While the ministry of finance has promised to make public the findings of the investigative panel set up to look into the issues leading to the suspension, Nigerians await the report the committee must also remember that the Nigerian-Canadian civil servant, Nellie Mayshak, spent years working for the government of Ontario and there was no single accusation of stealing and corruption.

This outstanding public sector reform expert, that has worked in the Canadian Public service, and in president’s offices across Africa such as Ghana, Liberia, Sudan, Kenya and South Africa amongst others deserves much more than tarnishing her hard earned reputation.

If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.  Charles Caleb Colton, once said, “Truth can hardly be expected to adapt herself to the crooked policy and wily sinusitis of worldly affairs; for truth, like light, travels only in straight lines.”

Eleojo a retired civil servant, wrote from Lokoja

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