NEWS COMMENTARY REVEALS THE INEFFICIENCIES IN THE CURRENT PENSIONS SCHEME UNDER ACT 766 AND RECOMMENDS MEASURES TO RESOLVING THEM.
Events and media publications in the last quarter of 2020 were dominated by labour related issues and specifically retirement benefits under the new 3-Tier National Pension Act (Act 766). The Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other affiliates advanced the argument that Lump Sums received under the new 3-tier pension law, the National Pension Act, 2008 have fallen short of the corresponding 25% Lump Sums retirees would have received under the old law (PNDCL 247). The TUC eventually petitioned the government to take liability for the shortage in the payment of Lump Sums to pensioners who started retiring from the year 2020 under the new pension law. The Director-General of SSNIT, Dr. John Ofori-Tenkorang in October, admitted the observed shortfalls but attributed the causes to transitional challenges whilst insisting that the new pension law was the best bet to deliver better value to pensioners in the longterm.
Consequently, the government has assured public sector retirees of payment of shortfalls that resulted from differences between 25% Lump Sum under PNDC Law 247 and total Lump Sum received under Act 766. Questions are, how long will these shortfalls persist and how ready will the government be in absorbing this gap? What are the policy implications to government, and impact on social and economic well-being of elderly citizens? What could be the eligibility criteria for receipt of ‘Top-up’ payment from government? The Africa Centre for Retirement Research, after assessing the likely impact on the socio-economic well-being of the vulnerable Old-aged retiring citizens, and in line with the centre’s mission of contributing to the National Policy Dialogue on the subject of Social Protection, Retirement and Pensions, conducted and published a research policy brief on ACT 766 Retirees Lump Sums Shortfalls, and Policy Implications to Government” The results of the study projected that 81 percent of Act 766 retirees experienced shortfalls in Lump Sum when compared to the 25 per cent Lump sum they would otherwise have received under the old scheme. Out of those who had Shortfalls, public sector workers were the most affected – 90 percent of them recorded Shortfalls as compared to 64 percent of private sector workers.
Further statistical test confirmed that there was a significant difference between the Lump Sums received under Act 766 and the corresponding computed 25 percent LumSum. The 25 percent Lump Sum was significantly higher than the total Lump Sum received by most retirees, that is, Shortfalls among the Act 766 retirees were widespread and significant. So, one would ask what could be the causes of ACT 766 Retirees Lump Sum Shortfalls? The research found some grievous procedural and supervisory lapses in the administration of the Second-Tier schemes that if not addressed could deny retirees deserved Lump Sum benefits or even benefit losses. It revealed the major causes of Lump Sum indicating that Some Corporate Trustees paid and continue to pay retirees 80 percent of the Lump Sum due them while promising to pay the rest at unspecified times. There is also a general lack of transparency and appropriate disclosure requirements by Corporate Trustees. This is because a significant 49 percent of the sample indicated that they did not understand how the second-tier payment was determined and reported that they simply completed forms and later received payment without any receipt or knowledge of content of their Statement of Accounts.
In some cases, benefits were paid without members’ transferred contributions from the Temporary Pension Fund Accounts leading to underpayment of benefits. Inadequate investment income. In order to minimize investment risk and operational failures which is critical to the efficiency of the 3-tier pension system. Policymakers, and in particular National Pensions Regulatory Authority, NPRA, should begin to update their supervisory approach as response measures to the revealed Lump Sum Shortfalls. The supervisory authority’s monitoring mechanisms should be designed to achieve optimum market performance, and such performance must reflect in the individual’s contribution statement of accounts that is, accurate crediting of members’ contributions and interest income. The NPRA could also minimize investment risk facing contributors by instituting minimum investment performance guarantees for Fund Managers during pension reforms. The Lump Sum shortfalls and causes, as pointed out represents a major policy gap that must be addressed comprehensively through multi-stakeholder engagement. This will forestall continuous ‘Top-up’ payments by government long into the future, minimize continuous agitations on the labor front, improve the economic wellbeing of the Ghanaian retiree, and consequently reduce pensioner mortality due to heart-related shocks.
The Script Is by Raymond K. Odah, Head, Resarch Communication at The Africa Centre For Retirement Research.