Abia State Treasury Single Account and its implications on Smooth running of Education institutions and the Health Institutions by Hon. Obinna Eze Oriaku

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Last year the Government of Abia state rolled out their policy plan of introducing Single treasury account for the state (TSA) .

TSA refers to Treasury Single Account, a public accounting system using a single account, or a set of linked accounts by government to ensure all revenue receipts and payments are done through a Consolidated Revenue Account (CRA) at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) (see Premium Times 7 Mar 2016.

In this case, payments for the state will be through at the Accountant Generals office Umuahia. This is commendable as it is necessary to block all the leakages in revenue generation of the State.

We have identified diversion and mismanagement of funds amongst the Parastatals in Abia State as bane of the growth of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR.

A good example is using the school fees of some of these schools to fund TETfund projects after mismanagement of the fund, among others.

As good as TSA is, it has its own limitations. It stifles the day to day and smooth running of these institutions.

The plan to implement TSA cannot be a justification to owe lecturers and other staff of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) 3 month arrears which have turned many of them to beggars.

Abia State University staff were owed 12 months arrears by the immediate past administration, if my memory serves me well. Abia State University teaching hospital (ABSUTH) 23 months, AbiaPoly 34 months amongst other Parastatals including Abia State College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu.

Since government is continuum and involves both assets and liabilities, there is no justifiable reason for Abia State Government to continue to owe these arrears of salaries and in addition delay the payment of their current emoluments especially with the kind of improved allocation that comes to the State monthly.

These two sectors; Education and Health are very critical sectors in human development index (HDI) that should get prompt government attention if we are to attain the sustainable development goals.

In many states, Enugu State for instance, what is done is that the state through the board of internal revenue monitor/mirrow through an IT deployment the daily and monthly collections of these institutions.

The Governor, Commissioner for finance and Accountant General can from the comfort of their offices view the daily , weekly and monthly collections of these institutions.

This has a way of instilling fear in management and forestalling mismanagement of funds as they are aware that the State is aware of their monthly collection and demands for explanation of the usage of the funds collected from time to time.

Recently, the federal government granted exemption to the federal universities from being part of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS.

The federal government of Nigeria in October 2006 introduced the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as one of its reform programmes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the storage of personnel records and administration of monthly payroll in a bid to enhance confidence in staff emolument costs and budgeting.

This is the process of centralization of payment of University workers instead of the old practice where subventions are provided and Universities pay their workers.

Abia State University government cannot be adopting a policy the federal government just jettisoned after prolonged negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) due to its inherent limitations.

The union reiterated that ASUU considers the IPPIS payment system as uncongenial with the modus operandi of the university system, given the peculiarities of universities.

Insisting that UTAS mode of employment, retirement age, sabbatical leave, adjunct engagements, part-time engagements, contract engagements, and others are concepts that are unique to the university, and obviously alien to IPPIS.

This centralized payment kills the spirit of university autonomy which is very key in what defines a university or any education institution.

The university autonomy is defined as “the independence from the state and other pressures of the society to make decisions regarding its self-governance, finance, administration and establish its policies”.

Undue interference in the Universities diminishes what they stand for as the “ivory tower” for creation and dissemination of new knowledge, discourages free thinking and the healthy competition associated with the academia.

If the state government goes ahead with these two policies of centralized pay roll of University workers and resort to monthly approval of running cost, it will have many negative implications on the growth and development of the education institutions in the state .

A sister university that adopted this approach has witnessed stunted growth and development as the Vice Chancellor and Bursar are always on the road to explain to the Governor why they need additional approval to get one thing or the other done which is time consuming.

Staff leave the institution and there is no replacement, adjunct lecturers cannot be paid as they are not pay-rolled as regular staff.

Lecturers on sabbatical may not continue to be paid since it is a centralized pay roll and Umuahia is the only location allowed to take decision.

Sponsorship of academic staff to attend conferences, Seminars and trainings will be discouraged and difficult since every approval must be gotten from Umuahia. A situation where sister institutions that are using this approach ,external examiners are not remunerated even after the students they examined have graduated and finished NYSC. It is not the best approach in a modern society.

On the health institution referencing Abia State teaching Hospital Aba.(ABSUTH)
Beyond the centralization of salaries which has huge implications based on the nature of such institutions.
Doctors and Nurses do shift duty and most times their salaries fluctuate based on man hour deployed within the month and number of shifts.

It also suggest that Umuahia( Nvosi-lol) must be notified weekly or monthly on the changes as this constitute part of their monthly salaries.

The hospital management must run within the approved monthly running cost. Unfortunately, we cannot predict or estimate the rate of accidents or number of sick people even possibility of outbreaks like cholera which is ravaging most states. It means the CMD must run back to the Governor daily for enhanced approval and payment that can take days before such emergency situations are addressed.

How do we determine the daily or weekly quantity of consumables like cotton wool, gloves, strings etc.

What happens to the drug revolving arrangement assuming needed drugs finishes before estimated time? After the calamity that befell that teaching hospital of that referenced sister State , the Governor of that State now forced to allows the hospital to use their IGR 100% as running cost while their salaries still comes from that centralized Centre.

The university of the sister state is in total shambles as lecturers, non-academic staff have all left and are not replaced.

Gradually the university became more of a glorified secondary school as the Governor who is most times out of the state must sign off before they buy gas or pay NEPA that disconnected light from the school.

“`My Suggestions though advisory .

It is good that these institutions are accountable as they have served as cash cow to past leaders of these institutions. However, the state should have exceptions to TSA total implementation specifically the University and the Teaching Hospital.
They should be able to use available software in BIR office to mirrow their monthly collections, grant them access to the funds generated while constantly asking for detailed explanations on the usage from time to time . This will instill financial discipline among the leaders in these institutions.

The centralization of salary payment for the lecturers and health workers needs to be fine-tuned as it has huge implications on smooth running of these institutions.

The teaching hospital is also an off shoot of the university, subjecting them to routine approvals will kill their initiatives. Moreover, they may not be in control to determine what number of health cases that will get to them in a month since they are majorly a referral hospital being a tertiary health institution.

As suggested above, the state government should mirrow all daily and monthly collections after automation of all internal processes and monitor their usage as this will instil fear and confidence on the managers.

This is the approach Enugu state government adopted that has made Eungu state teaching hospital one of the best ran State teaching hospitals in Nigeria.

Let us be circumspect in the implementation of TSA as it also has it’s own negative implications.

This will also completely strip University council members of any responsibility which is strnage to the act establishing these institutions since every kobo will be approved by Umuahia(Nvosi)

Obinna Oriaku

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