Officials of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) are scheduled to meet tomorrow to reconcile their books and ascertain exactly how much government owes the Trust.
Dr. John Ofori-Tenkorang, Director-General of the Trust, told the B&FT that due to a lag of certain payments of public sectors workers, the Trust and Controller have to meet to sort out the discrepancy and find a lasting solution.
“Due to ghost names [on the books of CAGD] there are lot of data issues between SSNIT and the Controller, and we believe this meeting will clear our lines so we finally come to an agreement on what the real numbers are. With that, we can reach an agreement on the payment of arrears,” he said.
Shying from stating exactly how much government owes SSNIT, Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang noted that there have been several engagements between the Trust and Controller – and this meeting should be the final one that clears the path to determining how much government owes the Trust, and how to go about collecting that debt.
Several figures have been talked about as the debt government owes SSNIT, but none has been confirmed by the pension giant.
One such report notes that government, as at December 2015, owed the Trust an amount of GH¢560million. A previous report, in 2014, put government’s indebtedness to SSNIT at GH¢1.15billion.
Nursing the Trust back to health
At a press soiree last week, Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang explained that leadership of the Trust are working around the clock to nurse the institution back to health with a series of measures which cut across internal cost-cutting, withdrawal from loss-making investments, increasing awareness to boost contributions, and deepening transparency.
“For the first time we were collecting less than we were paying out. This means there was a deficit. The current management and board had to institute measures to correct the deficit and arrest the fast-deteriorating finances of the Trust,” he said.
One of the first moves to curb the acceleration of increase in benefit payments, he said, was to identify and delete ghost pensioners from the Trust’s payroll.
This exercise, he added, led to the deletion of a net 6,452 pensioners – which has saved the trust GH¢20million as at September 2018.
Despite the cost-cutting, Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang added that SSNIT has not reneged on its responsibility of paying benefits.
A total of GH¢2.2billion was paid to 189,549 pensioners and other beneficiaries in 2017, compared to a payment of GH¢1.7billion to 174,164 beneficiaries in 2016.
“This represent a 29.41 percent increment. Also, in January 2018, all pension payments were increased by 10 percent. The minimum pension, which is above the statutory monthly minimum wage for the working population, has been maintained,” he said.
On investments, the Trust’s Director-General noted that the investment portfolio registered a 5.77 percent real return in 2017, as against -5.93 percent in 2016. The 2017 performance, he explained, was above the external actuarial target of 3.25 percent.
The trust’s total investment assets, as at September 2018, stood at GH¢9.38billion, representing a 2.4 percent growth in asset value compared to September 2017’s value of GH¢9.16billion.
To increase value from its short-term investment, he said, SSNIT has revised its Treasury policy and now places funds with commercial banks and other financial institutions at Treasury bill plus a minimum of 3 percent – as against the Trust’s former policy of Treasury bill plus 1 percent.
“At the end of 2017 the value of our cash and near-cash instruments stood at about GH¢1billion as opposed to GH¢217million at the end of 2016. The value of the Trust’s assets increased by GH¢1.4billion in 2017 from GH¢8.4billion to GH¢9.8billion, as against a decrease of GH¢404.5million in 2016,” he added.
Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang added that the current board and management are unwavering in their resolve and commitment to build a Trust whose existence and success is not just based on the law but also on a good track-record of consistent results, delivering of value to stakeholders, and an appreciation of the benefits a secure retirement offers every worker.
“This includes extending coverage for those in the informal sector. Substantial progress will be made in these areas to turn the Trust around and position it for further growth that will positively impact our national development in the coming years,” he said.