From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Pensioners in the South-South zone of the country have commended Pension transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for its quality of transparency and credibility in the second phase of the parastatal pensioners verifications exercise ongoing in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
It would be noted that PTAD, an agency of the Federal Government was established in 2013 to oversee the administration of pensions under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) for pensioners not transiting to the Contributory Pension Scheme in compliance with the establishment of an independent pension department for the Public Service of the Federation.
Some of the pensioners at the verification exercise told The AUTHORITY that the process was very smooth, hitch free unlike it used to be. They noted that before PTAD came onboard, there used to be alot of casualties during such exercise.
A retired staff of the Nigerian National Shipping line officer, Robinson Egbo, described the government agency as being sincere in treating issues of the pensioners.
He said: “When is good, Nigerians should say is good. When is bad we should not be afraid to say is bad also. I have been here since Monday, just to assist our staffers who came from outside Port Harcourt and it has been perfect. I have not seen verification where people did not collapse, elderly people are not been held because they are feeble. Like what I saw here, everything is working smoothly, there is an ambulance here, and there is no cutting corner. You stay on the queue, you will be served.
“Is like they brought their entire office to this place, so it has been wonderful and I felt I should appreciate them because they have done well. Their staffers have been very fine”, Egbo commended.
During the interactive session with the pensioners, Sharon Ikeazor, Executive Secretary of PTAD, noted that “before PTAD was established, pension administration in Nigeria has fallen into disrepute amidst allegations of misappropriation of funds, maladministration, corruption and fraud as well as numerous pensioners complaints that bothered on issues such as non-payment of monthly pensions after retirement, short payment of pensions and gratuity, removal of name on pension payment voucher, non-payment of pension after retirement, among other problems”.
She said it was in a bid to correct the anomalies as well as streamline the payment of pensions and gratuities of pensioners under its mandate, PTAD commenced a nationwide verification of pensioners under the DBS towards “maintaining a comprehensive database of pensioners in its jurisdiction”.
Speaking with newsmen at the event, Sulayman Shelleng, Director, Parastatals Pension Department of the PTAD, noted that the agency has simplified the verification process, saying they are verifying paratatals pensioners from 274 agencies.
Shelleng explained: “Is very obvious that all the processes have been simplified, they were made pensioners friendly, all the non valuable processes have been removed. We have got a very simple process considering that we are verifying parastatals pensioners from 274 agencies who have different salary structure, different condition of services.
“So, what we have done is to consolidate this to one simple process so that we can avoid repetition. We are going to take it sector by sector. Under this current arrangement, we will be done by October this year and by then we would have gone round the whole of this country. We started in April for Lagos and now we are in the South-South, then next one will be the South-West, South-East, North-West, North-East and ends with the North-Central and Abuja FCT.”
He disclosed “There are four department in the exercise, we have concluded the verification for three of them; the Civil Service, the Police Pension, as well as the Customs, Immigrations and Prisons Pension department.
“This is some sort of sensitization that is going on. There is a cleanup that will give us comprehensive database of all the pensioners. This will also be the last physical exercise, After we establish a comprehensive database, we will now deploy technology for future verifications where we don’t need to bring pensioners together again.
Mr Iliya Vongjen, who presented the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Abuja, a partner in the pension, also noted that “the process is very credible. It has stages and it has never been done like this before. It involves the agencies of the government, like the office of Accountant General, the Auditor General, the PENCOM and the Public Complaints as well, to make sure that every process here is credible”.