By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
The Federal Government on Wednesday said that it was still waiting for the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to upgrade and return to it the Universities Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, which was said to have failed the integrity test.
The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa disclosed this while fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Recall that ASUU commenced one-month warning strike on February 14 over a face-off with the Federal Government which included the non-acceptance of UTAS as the payment platform to replace the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System, IPPIS.
The Federal Government has insisted that UTAS has failed the necessary tests that should qualify it to be used as a payment platform, but ASUU on its own had accused the government of not being ready to accept its alternative platform to IPPIS.
Asked on the position of UTAS which is one of the contentious issues that led to the ongoing ASUU strike, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami said when he received a letter from the Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige requesting a review of the submission and the technical ability of the software of the system, he forwarded the request to the National Information Technology Development Agency.
According to him, “They (NITDA) conducted their own analysis, their own testing and sent same back to me, and I drafted a cover letter I forwarded to the Minister of Labour and Employment and I copied the two Ministers of Education, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and also office of the Accountant General of the Federation and even NUC (National University Commission)”.
The Minister however directed the DG of NITDA, who sat beside him to give the situation report on the matter.
Giving clarification on the position of UTAS, the NITDA DG said, “When we received the request to review, UTAS, you know, building complex system like UTAS that involves employees’ personal data, and also payment system, we have to subject it to do best practice tests before approving. Normally, when we are reviewing that kind of system, we perform three tests.
“Firstly, because when you’re building system, it’s not just about the technology, you need to consider the people that will use this system and the process. If you don’t align people, process and technology, you will never get result.
“No matter how good the technology is, if the people don’t understand how to use it, they won’t use it. And if the process is different from the way the people work, also, they won’t use it. So that is a process of building technology.
“Firstly, you need to get the business requirement. What do you want to achieve? So it’s not the technology that will come first, it is the business requirement, what do you want to achieve, then you need to identify the capabilities you need to achieve that is your business objective.
“Part of the capability is the technology you need to bring in and the people that will operate the technology before you start thinking of the technology, because technology is always a tool that will help you to achieve an objective or to do your work. If you bring the tool before knowing what to do with it, it will be useless.
“So when they came, we said okay, fine, we will do a user acceptance test, ASUU you’ve built this system, but you are not the one that will use the system.
“There are people in Bursary and all the finance that will use this system. So we need to do user acceptance test with them, let them come show them the system, let them see if it can help them to do the work there.
“Secondly, we said we’ll do vulnerability test to test the security integrity of the system. Because if there is vulnerability, people can hack it, can change and it involves financial transactions. Adding zero means a lot. So we say we need to do that.
“And also we need to do stress test. You can build a system on your laptop or on a small computer, use it but when you put so many data it will crash, we need to do the stress test to make sure that system can do.
“This is on the system. Then also you need to have a data center where you need to put that system because just having a system without the data center it will not operate also.
“So we did all these three tests with them. And the system couldn’t pass. We wrote the reports and submitted them back to the Honorable Minister, which he forwarded to all relevant institutions, including ASUU.
“As we speak now, ASUU is working, trying to fix all the issues we highlighted with the system and we will review it again, but that is just one half of the story.
“The second half of the story also, we need to find where to put that system like IPPIS we have a data centre built for it. ASUU where are we going to put it?
“That means we need to have the data centre and also that data centre, we need to check to make sure it meets minimum requirements. Because if you put people’s information and the system crashes, how can you pay them salary?
“You need to build redundancy. There are a lot of things to do. So but as we speak, they’re trying to fix all the issues we highlighted with the system. Then when we finish that, we need to look at the second half of the story, getting where to install it.”