By Simon Imobo-Tswam
There are many people who are not sold on the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, what with the loud sloganeering at every forum and the chest-beating at almost every official function. But slogans or not, it does not take away its salutary benefits. And the evidence of this can be seen in many areas, one of which is the critical area of pension administration, with the establishment of the Pension Transition Arrangement Department (PTAD).
Although its establishment was without fanfare, it has turned out to be one of the most revolutionary actions of the Jonathan presidency. Already, the department, which reports directly to the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has started yielding positive results for pensioners and other stakeholders in the pension industry. And the person powering the PTAD is Ms. Nellie Mayshak, unarguably an uncommon woman, with an uncommon passion for uncommon transformation.
In September 2013 when this quiet transformer was appointed the Director-General of the newly created PTAD, there were hues and cries everywhere in the land about pension scams and pension thieves. Then, if small-time conmen were involved in pension-swindles that only ran into several millions, the newspapers ignored them; the spaces were reserved for the big masquerades, those who stole in tens of billions.
It was these banner headlines and the public outcry that necessitated the setting up of PTAD. This was in compliance with Section 30, sub-section (2a) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) of 2004 (as amended of 2014). And its mandate was to consolidate the three offices handling the old pension scheme. These were the Civil Service Pension Department (CSPD), the Police Pension Office (PPO) and the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Office (CIPPO). Of course, everyone can attest that these were cesspools of corruption.
As the circular issued then by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Alhaji BukarGoni Aji, the PTAD was expected to spearhead the transition of the three offices into one pension administration and management – for the express purposes of the smoothness, effectiveness and efficiency of a reformed and transformed pension regime. About a year down the road, the consensus is that PTAD is working. In just a year, Ms. Mayshak has proved that not only can pension administration work effectively and efficiently, it can work here in Nigeria. In other words, she has taken Nigeria from the ideal to the practical. We do not need to cite foreign examples.
Pensioners in the public service are smiling and thanking God, and those on the threshold of retirement are not having pre-retirement nightmares as was once the case. Even for us as a nation, we are no more worried about deflecting the curses of departing senior citizens who transit to the great beyond with frowns on their faces. So it is a win-win situation. At every function she attends, the PTAD chief executive does not fail to assure public servants that their pension benefits would be paid, surely and promptly, after retirement.
In a country where there is a yawning gap between promise and performance, the Mayshak example is not only refreshing, it is a positive sign that Nigeria may yet reclaim the promise of her great destiny. And President Jonathan can hold the PTAD scorecard in hand (with Mayshak standing beside him), look at Nigerians in the face, but especially pensioners, and tell them proudly: PTAD is a promise made and a promise kept.
No one can succeed alone, and she is ably assisted by her competent team. Training of manpower is a key operational strategy. She has further digitalized PTAD operations as all modern or serious institutions should. She has employed the use of technology in a critical area like the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System; thus eliminating preventable delays in the payment of pension benefits as at when due.
It is courtesy of these technology-driven processes at PTAD that enabled Mayshak to tell Nigerians at a recent Sensitization Workshop for Treasury Funded-Parastatals and their Pensions Board of Trustees in Abuja that “There has not been a single incident of misappropriation of pension funds since PTAD was established.” And for emphasis, she assured:: “And there will never be.”
She added at the occasion: “What has contributed to this is that we have put in systems that have completely eliminated pension officials from physically accessing pension funds. Every payment is done electronically through ‘GIFMIS’, from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation,” she said. But so as to leave no stone unturned in her passion for service delivery, Ms. Mayshak has opened collaborative liaisons with such agencies as the Public Complaints Commission (PCC), the Independent Corrupt practices and Other Miscellaneous Offences Commission (ICPC) the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) well as and workers’ unions.
It is a testimony to the positive work Mayshak is doing at PTAD that only recently, the Chairman, Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) PHCN, Comrade Temple Ubani, made the request PHCN staff pensions should be transferred to PTAD. And various chapters of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) have continued to hail her pioneering work at PTAD. Before her appointment, Ms. Mayshak was the National Programme Manager at the Federal Public Administration Reform programme (FEPAR). We hope after her salutary work at PTAD, she, like other amazons like Oby Ezekwesili before her, she will climb unto the higher rungs of national service.
Simon Imobo-Tswam can be reached at:[email protected]