By Obas Esiedesa
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on Monday disclosed that the Federal Government has so far spent N409,915,331,675.45 as severance and death benefits payments to former workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
PHCN, made up of six power generation companies, one transmission company and eleven electricity distribution companies, was privatized in November 2013 as part of government effort to make the sector efficient and boost power supply to consumers.
The government however retained ownership of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
The Bureau’s Head of Public Communications, Mrs. Amina Othman Tukur, in a statement in Abuja, explained that the amount was spent as severance benefits to former active staff of PHCN and payment of PHCN Retirees/Death benefits which PHCN could not pay before it handed over to the successor companies.
Tukur explained that for active staff, “the total number submitted to the BPE by PHCN was 47, 913 and out of the number, 47,275 representing 99 percent have been fully paid. These were forwarded to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) for payment in 36 batches”.
She added that of the 638 outstanding active staff, there are: a) 167 duplicate and blank spaces on the list, b) 414 never turned up for verification, c) 25 have been audited and are awaiting cash-backing, d) 9 with initial documentation problems will soon be audited; and e) 23 have documentation problems.
She noted that “in the course of the verification, 81 cases were found to be short-paid which have been corrected and cash-backed while 180 cases recently treated and recomputed for short–payment are awaiting cash backing”.
The bureau stated that “4,438 PHCN Retirees/NOKs have been submitted to BPE in eight batches and to date, 3,131 representing, 71 percent of the beneficiaries have been fully paid their entitlements with 1,307 yet to be paid. This is as a result of 15 of them having error in serial numbering, 66 possible duplicates in submissions which 14 of them have been recently audited; and
“196 have been cleared and are awaiting cash-backing, 392 cleared and sent to the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for pension related benefits and 694 to the Presidential Initiative for Continuous Auditing (PICA) for Gratuities and Deceased Benefits”.
On the two percent Union deductions, the Bureau said “a total of N7,485,291,722.89 has already been paid to the defunct PHCN Unions account from batches 1-36 while the Bureau has already written to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) to credit the Unions’ Account for the remaining deductions”.
On the ten percent equity shareholding for staff of the defunct utility company, the Bureau explained that “in accordance with the privatisation policy, workers of enterprises that are slated for privatisation are entitled to be allotted some percentage of the outstanding shares of the company which in the case of the PHCN, the Bureau reserved 10 percent of the balance of 40 percent (4 percent) for workers of the successor companies.
“The 10 percent shares due to workers of the Power Companies would be allotted to them after the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) completes it assignment on the valuation of the investments done by state in the distribution companies. The valuation would form the basis on which shares will be allotted to each state government”.
Regarding the non-computation of 16 months’ entitlements of staff of the defunct PHCN, the Bureau said that during one of the engagements with the unions on January 13, 2014 at the Federal Ministry of Power, it was agreed that “7.5 percent employer pension contribution of July, 2012 to 31st October, 2013 will be paid by the Federal Government (Market Operator)”.
“Though the decision had been communicated to the Market Operator, the Unions suggested that BPE should escalate the matter to the Vice President and the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) for consideration and resolution. Papers to the NCP on the matter are being completed”, Mrs. Tukur added.
BPE said some of the ex-workers and pensioners/NOKs are having difficulties to access their entitlements since 2013 when their payments were cash-backed due to invalid account details such as:
a) Non-nuban account numbers, b) Wrong account names/numbers, c) Wrong Bank names.
For the pensioners/NOKs, it is invalid RSA details such as: a) Wrong RSA Account names, d) Wrong RSA Pins, e) Wrong account RSA, f) Multiple RSA accounts, g) Failed payments attempted once by officials of the Various paying Banks; and h) Bank Account Detail Dormancy.
She stated that the Bureau and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) were working to resolve the problem.