THE Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) says it does not and will not cheat pensioners in the payment of pension benefits. It has, therefore, called on the public to rest assured that the Trust will not do anything that will negatively affect contributors.
“SSNIT is not cheating anybody. If we don’t pay you the right pension, it does not come into the pockets of the staff. It’s not as if there is a bonus system that rewards workers of the scheme for not paying more money to our beneficiaries,” the Director–General of SSNIT, Dr John Ofori-Tenkorang, said.
The SSNIT boss’ comments were to allay concerns by labour unions that the Trust was misapplying the law to pay low pensions, which had made contributors worse off.
He was speaking at an event organised by SSNIT to explain its operations to journalists at Aburi in the Eastern Region last Saturday. The event was attended by workers and the top management of SSNIT, including the Deputy Director General in charge of Operations and Benefits, Mrs Laurette Korkor Otchere; the Deputy Director of Finance, Human Resource and Administration, Mr Michael Addo, and the Deputy Director-General of Investments and Developments, Mr Kofi Osafo-Maafo.
An eight-member committee set up by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to look into the current pension scheme, among other concerns, accused SSNIT of wrongly computing pension benefits.
According to the committee, the wrong computations affected how SSNIT recognised annual salaries, determination of annuities (regular allowance payments)?and early retirement reduction.
It also faulted SSNIT for “the wrong interpretation of what constitutes annual salary (36 months), early retirement reduction factor and annuity factor on lump sum,” describing it as “strange to the PNDC Law 247 and must be scrapped”.
The committee further noted that “the SSNIT Pension is low because SSNIT has misinterpreted the Pension Law, which has resulted in low payment of pensions, thus making the contributors worse off”.
It accused SSNIT of not applying the law governing the pension scheme and appealed to the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to compel the first-tier pension fund manager to “do the right thing”.
Reacting to the TUC’s concerns, Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said there was a general disagreement between SSNIT and the TUC with regard to the computation of the benefits.
He said the disagreement was as a result of a lacuna in the pension law which had been interpreted differently by SSNIT and TUC.
He cited one disagreement on whether or not future payments to contributors under PNDC Law 247 should be discounted after SSNIT had paid the 25 per cent lump sum payment as required by the law.
He said the law “states that a 25 per cent lump sum should be paid upfront, but it does not explicitly say that future payment should be discounted”.
“SSNIT, however, believes that sound principles of finance allow us to make discount on future payments after paying the lump sum to take into account interest rates,” he said.
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said to resolve the issue, SSNIT and organised labour were currently before the NPRA.
“The NPRA has already made pronouncements on some of the issues and has directed us to continue our talks. We will get over it but it’s not that SSNIT is cheating anybody,” he added.
SSNIT is good
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang appealed to the public to continue to have faith in SSNIT and see the trust as crucial to their well-being and the development of the country.
He said his outfit was poised to build a people–centred institution and had, therefore, increased its engagement with the public and was also leveraging on technology to further improve its services.
“We are building SSNIT into an institution where people will voluntarily give us their money and not because the law requires them to do so. We want people to know that the SSNIT scheme is good and that they will short-change themselves if they do not join it,” he said.