When Barr. Sharon Ikeazor was appointed the executive secretary of pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) a year ago, she was saddled with the responsibility of managing an organization that has become comatose and totally lacking in institutional capacity to deliver on its mandate.
Apart from inheriting a work force that was totally demoralized and disorganized, there were problems of inadequate funding and lack of public trust as a result of debilitating corrupting that had characterized pension administration in the past.
Undaunted by these challenges Barr. Ikeazor, a seasoned administrator, embraced her assignment with missionary zeal. Her first major task was to embark on comprehensive reorganization of the Directorate including conducting a staff audit, to determine the number of personnel and ensure that the right caliber of staff were engaged to perform tasks.
In furtherance to her commitment to reposition PTAD to play the expected role of being the catalyst in pension administration, she initiated and developed a pension policy document to guide the operations of all the departments. The document which was approved by the relevant authority resulted in the creation of four pension departments that have been well equipped to provide efficient pension services in line with best standard practice.
Lack of reliable database and proper verification of pensioners had been a major hindrance to effective pension administration in the country. This explained why the Executive Secretary made biometric capturing and verification of pensioners her top priority. Under her leadership PTAD has embarked on vigorous nationwide verification project with the biometric capture of retirees under the civil service pension.
However, unlike the previous verification exercises which were characterized by irregularities, corruption and very painful experiences by retirees, the new approach has been very smooth and successful. So far, the verification exercise has been successfully carried in various zones of the country such as North-East which had peculiar challenges as a result of Boko Haram insurgency and South-South, which has a very difficult terrain.
The overall objective of PTAD under her dynamic leadership is to ensure that every retiree anywhere in the country is properly captured and to provide the government with accurate statistics of pensioners that will help facilitate the payment of pension benefits. The Executive Secretary is passionately concerned about the welfare of the senior citizens which informs why she is working very hard to ensure that processing and accessing their pension benefits would be done without much stress.
Within one year of her being in the saddle, Barr. Ikeazor has been able to totally clean it up PTAD and has made it more functional. Gone were the days when retirees had to wait endlessly to receive their pension benefits.
Also gone is the issue of multiple verification which required retirees to travel to distance places to be captured. With the introduction of “I am Alive Status”, the pensioner once captured is only required to visit a designated centre within his state where he or her finger print would be taken to prove that the person is still alive. This exercise which is to be carried out once every quarter has become an antidote to the issue of ghost pensioners.
Corruption in pension administration has been of great concern to all. Over the years massive corruption involving billions of Naira had been discovered in the pension scheme, which unfortunately has contributed to the delay in the payment of pension benefits to pensioners.
Worried by the menace which had eaten so deep into the soul of pension administration, the Executive Secretary from the moment she assumed office made it clear that the fight against corruption in the system would remain one of her major priorities.
As a proof of zero tolerance for corruption, she inaugurated the anti- corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) in conjunction with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). The unit has been well empowered to expose and deal with every form of corruption within the system, especially pension scammers who have continued to fleece pensioners of huge sums of money with the promise of paying their entitlement. Some of such pension fraudsters have been apprehended and handed over to ICPC for prosecutions.
Perhaps, one of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Executive Secretary in her first year in office is the recent payment of pension benefits to ex-Biafran police officers, who had waited for 47 years for this to happen. This unprecedented breakthrough, which no doubt has brought so much relief and happiness to the families of the affected police officers, has been attributed to her doggedness, resilience and commitment to achieving the desired result.
For all intent and purpose there is every reason to celebrate her one year in office as the Executive Secretary of PTAD. She came in as a woman on a mission to transform the organization and pension administration in the country. Though, initially it appeared to have been an impossible task, she has demonstrated beyond every reasonable doubt that it can done.
Written by Ogechukwu Ajuzie, an Abuja based Public Affairs commentator.