NPRA working to resolve unions’ raging concerns … confident engagement with contributors will put pensions on sound footing

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The National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) has assured of efforts to address the concerns of public sector unions over the low pension amounts paid by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

The unions, totalling 12 which came together to form the Forum for Public Sector Registered Pension Schemes last week, gave government a two-week ultimatum to address their concerns, or they will lay down their tools. However, NPRA’s Chief Executive Officer, Hayford Atta Krufi – who described the unions’ concerns as genuine and a step toward consolidating the industry, says the regulator is engaging all stakeholders to find an amicable solution.

“Pensions is a dynamic industry, and therefore there is always engagement with stakeholders to make sure that contributors are not made worse off, and also income replacement when people retire is as close as possible to when they were in employment.

“So, these engagements are regular ones that we have with the industry or stakeholders and are part of the process to make sure pensions as a system in our country is put on sound footing.

“So, it is a welcome engagement with the unions, and we will continue to make sure that retirement income is always secure and that contributors are not made worse-off,” he told the B&FT in Accra.

He spoke on the side-lines of a cheque-donation for GH¢215,000 to the COVID-19 National Trust Fund by the pensions industry.

Although Mr. Krufi did not provide further details of the engagement with unions, he was optimistic about an amicable solution being found to the impasse.

He added: “It is not an engagement that you would say is conclusive; it is an ongoing process so stakeholder engagement with the unions, with employers, pension fund managers and pension administrators all being part of the processes to ensure the regulator is very well-informed as to the views and issues as far as contributors are concerned, and how we as a referee will mediate between the pension administrators and the contributors to ensure retirement income security”.

To him, it is also imperative that all stakeholders continue striving to ensure the National Pensions Act, Act 766 – which was implemented 10 years ago – continues to improve the lot of contributors. “Where we have had difficulties in transitional issues, let’s continue to work together to make sure that all those issues are ironed-out, and that we have a very strong and stable pensions industry.”

Background

The 12 public sector unions forming the Forum for Public Sector Registered Pension Schemes, at a press conference last week, issued a two-week ultimatum for government to address their concerns on low SSNIT payouts.

According to Chairman of the Forum and Executive Secretary of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association, Ghana, (CLOGSAG) Isaac Bampoe-Addo, the Forum has been inundated with complaints from pensioners on the meagre amounts paid them when they proceed on retirement; hence their push for the increment.

As a result of the relatively low pension earnings under the SSNIT Pension Scheme, he said, public sector Teachers and Civil Servants requested to be placed on CAP 30.  Beneficiaries under Cap 30 were receiving better retirement lump-sums and pension earnings. The CAP 30 pension scheme is a non-contributory pension scheme instituted in 1950 under the Pensions Ordinance, No. 42 of Chapter 30 for civil servants in the service before 1972. Although outlawed under Act 766, the scheme still exists to date.

“The intensity and sustenance of industrial actions during the early part of 2000 led the then Kufour government to establish the Presidential Commission on Pensions (PCP).  Primarily, the PCP was tasked to critically examine the two pension schemes – that is the CAP 30 and SSNIT schemes as well as other schemes – and recommend a sustainable pension scheme that would address the concerns of workers,” he said.

Under section 824 of the Presidential Commission on Pensions, it was envisaged that under the tier-two scheme, it would pay improved pension benefits – especially the lump-sum, which the Commission (PCP) estimates will on average be 60 percent more than what CAP 30 presently pays, and about five times what SSNIT would have paid.  It is also cost-neutral; which means, in effect, that there will be no significant cost burden on contributors – i.e., both employer and employee.

Consequently, workers within the public sector were assured of better pension earnings structured in a three-tier pension scheme upon the coming into effect of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766 as amended).

“Regrettably, SSNIT has not transferred the past credits in its custody to the respective approved trusts which are enjoined, by law, to manage the tier-two funds,” Mr. Bampo Addo said.

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