Mr. President, I like you, but ....

Fri, 26 Dec 2014 Source: Cudjoe, Franklin

....I no longer trust your government on pensions. Sorry.

It is mortifying to learn that the current government, apparent practitioners of social democratic values have by their actions on pensions showed they cannot be trusted by their core base. The latest in the twisted and horrifying fate of Ghanaian workers is that the government has secretly began an amendment process to change the Pension Act to fit an ill-transparent plan on the usage of pension funds without the involvement of the necessary stakeholders; workers, welfare groups and policy makers. This was not how the pension reforms culminating in Act 766 came about. There were very widely held consultative meetings and discussions.

Citi FM reports that 12 labour unions believe and ''accused government and Parliament of disrespecting unions by amending sections of the Pensions Act without their knowledge. They claim the amendment when approved by the President will lead to a decrease in their tier one contributions. The Executive Secretary of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOGSAG), Isaac Bampoe-Addo who addressed the media also accused government of using the amendment as a ploy to divert attention from their earlier demands on the payment of their tier two contributions.

"The amendment at this point in time cast doubts on the motive of government in the implementation of the pension reform," he said. "the amendment could lead to a decrease in the payment of the tier one contributions to workers.]

Pension reforms far-sightedly started by the previous NPP government had all the markings of a good pension plan for all Ghanaian workers who were constantly short-changed by the rather unaccountable Social Security and National Insurance Trust. Indeed, the previous government had real pension professionals, actuarial scientists whose only condition for accepting to lead SSNIT was non-interference from government. In the case of the first pension managing director under the previous NPP government, it took him close to a year before accepting to work independently. His tenure was gratifying. He had prepared SSNIT to not only account properly but had a much befitting balance sheet and a clear sustainable plan to keep the trust in good stead for the next two decades even without continuous worker contributions.

Unfortunately nothing good can be said about the management of SSNIT since 2009. The pension reforms have been rendered useless first by deliberately not resourcing the National Pensions Regulator (NPRA) to be able to take charge and implement the reforms. Unaccountable characters had either by design or nature manned the board of the NPRA since 2009.

Until 2014, the board of the NPRA interfered with all decisions management took for the worse and in most cases acting as management. Yet, the tier two pensions that should have been properly supervised by a functional NPRA were all illegally kept and surreptitiously managed for nearly FOUR years returning less than 3% out of the promised 17% averaged treasury bill rates in the four years. There was no accountability. We ended up this year with the harrowing knowledge that millions of tier two pension funds had gone missing and as we know today, there is NOT a single source in government nor the NPRA that can tell Ghanaian workers what exactly their tier tow pension funds had accumulated and where those funds are.

Sorry Mr. President, I do not trust your government on pensions at all and quite frankly does not befit your party's Social Democratic tag. It seems inaptly applied here. I want to believe Ghana's development partners will take a cue from such harrowing accounts of how livelihoods could be decimated under precarious management of a developing country's pensions and advice accordingly since frankly all policy-oriented think tanks in Ghana do not seem to have a listening ear and implementation hands on crucial development matters for some time now. But we are still interested in helping this country beyond the arcane politics. Next week, my think tank, IMANI will publish the list of 5 public sector agencies that are providing some inspiration beyond the dark clouds that seem not to go away.

A very dry merry Christmas to all Ghanaian workers.

Franklin Cudjoe

Founding President & CEO, IMANI

Columnist: Cudjoe, Franklin