Ghana: Gov't Forms Illegal SSNIT

Contrary to the National Pension Act 2008, Act 766, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, then headed by the former Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffour, appears to have formed another 'Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT)' to manage pension funds for government workers.

The action of the ministry, which is suspected to be on the blind side of President Mahama, has angered government workers, including the Civil and Local Government Staff Associations, Ghana (CLOGSAG) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers, which have threatened fire and brimstone, to have the decision of the ministry reversed through the due process of the law.

Following the complaint about the way workers' pensions were being managed, including the meagre sums of money paid to workers when they go on retirement, the government enacted the National Pension Act 2008, Act 766, to introduce a three tier pension scheme to manage pension funds.

Under the new Act, 13% of each worker's pension contribution, which constitutes the first tier, is paid to SSNIT, with 5% also going to the second tier. The third and final tier, which is a voluntary one, is yet to be introduced. This means that 18% of workers' gross salaries go into pension funds.

The Pension Act also mandates the setting up of a National Pension Regulatory Authority (NPRA), which would also oversee the selection of Corporate Trustees to manage the 5% contributions.

The Act further directs that workers, unlike SSNIT staff, have the right to join any of the Trustees to manage their 5% second contribution for them.

The Chronicle gathered that the NPRA, headed by Mr. Sam Pee Yalley, has so far licensed 15 Corporate Trustees, as mandated by the law, to manage the funds. These trustees are supposed to approach workers and convince them to allow them (Trustees) to manage the funds.

Available information indicates that though these trustees have approached some of the workers' groups and convinced them to manage their funds, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has unilaterally appointed Pension Alliance Trust, one of the Corporate Trustees licensed by the NPRA, to manage the second tier fund on behalf of all workers on government pay role.

In the letter appointing Pension Alliance Trust to manage the funds on behalf of government workers, Dr. Kwabena Duffour, the former Finance Minister, wrote: 'The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP), on behalf of the government of Ghana, is pleased to inform you that after going through a competitive selection process, your company is being offered appointment as Corporate Trustee for the Tier 2 Pension Scheme of employees on the government of Ghana Payroll for a renewable period of five years.'

Some of the Trustees registered by the NPRA, however, told The Chronicle that they did not see any advertisements in the newspaper inviting them to manage the Tier 2 on behalf of workers on the government payroll.

They are, therefore, shocked at the claim made by the former Finance Minister that Pension Alliance Trust Limited was selected, based on a competitive selection process.

Dr. Duffour, however, told The Chronicle in a telephone interview that four of the trustees put in bids, but failed to mention those trustees. Industry players are unhappy with the unilateral decision to appoint only one trustee to manage funds for workers on government payroll, since that would lead to the creation of another SSNIT, as government workers constitute over 80% of those who contribute to pension schemes in Ghana.

An unconfirmed report indicates that Pension Alliance Trust, which has been handed the chance to manage the 'second SSNIT', is owned by high ranking officials, hence the action of the Finance Ministry to hand over the contract to them.

What has even made the situation dicey is the fact that some of the licenced trustees had already signed contracts with some of these government workers before the decision was taken to force them under one scheme manager.

CLOGSAG, which is the largest group of employees on the government payroll, has rejected the move being made to force them to join another SSNIT.

A statement issued by Isaac Bampoe Addo, Executive Secretary of CLOGSAG, recently expressed shock over the development, since the action of the Finance Ministry contravened both the Labour and the Pension Acts.

"It is important to note that CLOGSAG has registered a corporate trustee to manage the pensions for its members, and has taken steps to sensitise its constituents across the country.

"As an Association, we have the right to be consulted and to participate in any decision that may affect our members. Pensions, for that matter, affect the future of our members, and all decisions concerning pensions is of paramount interest to CLOGSAG," the statement said.

CLOGSAG did not understand why the government had selected and appointed a Trustee for all public service employees, without considering the fact that the 2nd Tier is a Defined Contribution Scheme, where the risk of investment is fully borne by the contributors.

"Our initial observation is that this action by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, appointing a Trustee for Civil and Local Government staff, without taking cognisance of the fact that CLOGSAG has registered Hedge Pensions Trust to manage its own pensions is unilateral and an imposition that is not backed by the tenets of the National Pensions Act 2008, Act 766 and the Labour Law.

"Mortgaging pension contributions of staff of Civil and Local Government Services to a private

Trustee for five years is contrary to the intent and purpose of the National Pensions Act 2008,

Act 766, as it violates the portability principle of the new pension scheme. Could this not be an avenue for the payment of judgment debt should the five-year contract be terminated?

"CLOGSAG should not be made to suffer the same unfairness, inequities and inconsistencies that have characterised the Single Spine Pay Policy. Our members have suffered and continue to suffer injustices, and CLOGSAG would not countenance any manipulation of our pensions and our future. CLOGSAG and its members would not accept to be part of the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Pensions Alliance Trust Limited," the statement noted, and warned the Ministry of Finance not to meddle in "our pensions and future."

Dr. Duffour admitted during the telephone interview that the protest letter from the workers reached him, and that he also forwarded it to the then Attorney General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor, who was also part of the committee that selected Pension Alliance to manage the funds for government workers.

He was hopeful that advice might soon come from the A-G to settle the issue once and for all. More anon!

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