By Ebere Nwoji and Sylvester Idowu
Warri — The acting Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Aisha Dahir-Umar has said the allegations levelled against the National Pension Commission (PenCom) by members of the House of Representatives were incorrect and unfounded.
Dahir-Umar, made this known during the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee Public hearing to investigate the activities of PenCom and alleged Violation of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014, held in Abuja recently.
In her response to the Ad-Hoc Committee over the allegation, she said members of staff and management team of the commission had always operated in accordance with the Act.
She said the lawmakers were misled by a motion moved in the House on 29 November, 2018.
Speaking on the allegation of unduly creating an impasse in the matter of appointment and resumption of duty of the members of board of the commission, she recalled that following the dissolution of the erstwhile management of PenCom in 2017, along with the managements of 22 other agencies and parastatals, the federal government had announced the names of a new management team subject to confirmation by the Senate.
She said: "You will further recall that on 27 May, 2017, the federal government reconstituted the nominated team subject to senate confirmation. In the interim, however, the federal government directed the undersigned, as the most senior career staff of the commission, to superintend the affairs of the commission in acting capacity, pending assumption of duty by the appointed members of the executive management. "Consequently, we have in the commission since April 2017, only a transitional management run by career staff of the commission".
Continuing in her defence, she said, "By virtue of Section 19(3) of the PRA 2014, the president has power to appoint the Chairman, the Director-General and Commissioners of the National Pension Commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The career staff of the commission absolutely do not have any role or influence on decisions taken by either the executive or legislative arms of the federal government in the matter of appointment to the board of the commission.
"It is, therefore, incorrect to allege that the current transitional management is stalling the appointment or assumption of duty of the new board members.
"On illegal creation of additional directorates and appointment of more directors, thereby increasing the number from 10 to 17 directors. Section 30 of the PRA 2014 provides that the structure of PenCom shall comprise "divisions, departments and units as may be approved by the board from time to time."
The current organogram of the Commission was approved by the board of the commission at its 46th meeting held on 12 June, 2015, with a structure of 5 divisions and 20 departments.
"This structure subsists to date and has not been altered. Consequently, it is incorrect to state that additional directorates have been created by the Commission during the current transitional period," Dahir-Umar stated.
On recruiting of managers, she said the commission has not recruited any additional General Manager since the beginning of the transitional period in April 2017 to date.
According to her, what happened was a normal and duly approved promotion exercise for career staff of the commission, where three Deputy General Managers were promoted to the grade of General Managers after duly satisfying the established criteria in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment.
"The Ad-hoc Committee may wish to note that the report of the Annual Staff Performance Appraisal exercise, containing recommendations for promotion to General Manager and other grades, was approved by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) on 18 April, 2018, in the absence of a functional board of the commission. This is consistent with the provision of Section 17(5) of the PRA 2014 and Section 9 of the First Schedule to the PRA 2014, as well as Mr. President's directive of 16 July, 2015 to all MDAs whose boards were dissolved that issues requiring approval of boards should be referred to him for decision through the respective supervising ministries.
On the allegation of Illegal increase of commission's staff end of service benefits by 300 per cent, Dahir- Umar said Pursuant to Section 4(4)(a) of the PRA 2014, an employer may undertake to pay to his employees upon retirement, additional benefits other than the pension contributions into the Retirement Savings Account. Consistent with this provision and following the implementation of the Federal Government policy on 8-year tenure for Directors, the board of the commission had approved, at its 46th meeting held on 12 June, 2015, an End-of-Service Benefits package for General Managers who had served for a minimum of five years on the grade, she explained.