Knitting Footholds with NASSIT
The National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) Pension Scheme, which has benefited government pensioners, over the years is not only serving ordinary retired citizens but also other Senior Government Pensioners like Members of Parliament, Judges, Teachers etc, who have come to the realization that contributing to a pension scheme is something they often do simply because they have to and it is beneficial. The national pension scheme administered by the National Social Security Authority is different from other pension funds. Membership is compulsory for all those in formal employment, other than domestic workers. Fadda Bakish writes in reflection on the entity’s social security platform.
It could be recalled that the Government of Sierra Leone in 2004 mandated NASSIT to administer social payments to government pensioners, and since then government pension payroll has been increasing annually.
Report says the process has been going on smoothly, not until when the government decided to include the Wounded-In-Action (WIA) into the NASSIT pension payroll, which has been causing the institution some headaches.
The WIAs are discharged military personnel by the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) on medical grounds as wounded in action during the war. Sources say their names were forwarded in batches to NASSIT to be added to the government pension payroll. They have been enjoying NASSIT’s services all this while until recently when the government ordered NASSIT to embark on a thorough verification exercise in order to clean the pension’s payroll system before making any increment.
The decision for verification came in last year during the Workers’ Day Celebration as a recommendation to the government by the Sierra Leone Labour Congress. The document requested for fiscal increase in pension for those under the government pension scheme.
NASSIT is on the verge of completing verification of government pensioners across the country. However, it was in February this year when NASSIT commenced verification of its pension payroll, which exercise is currently undertaken by a team comprising representatives from the Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Labour; Accountant General’s Office; the Sierra Leone Labour Congress; the Sierra Leone Police and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Report reaching our information desk indicates that NASSIT decided to zero their system when the exercise was in progress and reactivated the verified list provided by the verification team. NASSIT sources on the other hand say, over seven thousand pensioners have been thoroughly verified and their names have been inputted into the pensioners’ system to continue receiving their entitlements as provided for by the laws of Sierra Leone.
“Since we started paying WIAs things have not been at ease at NASSIT,” a source stated, noting that NASSIT has never calculated nor determine the amount paid to WIAs. “We are only performing a function as mandated by government because we have the tools and expertise, and at the end of the day we are merely paid for an administrative role,” the source said over the weekend, revealing further that if there is any delay in payment of pension, it is due to the ongoing verification exercise.
Out of eighteen thousand (18, 000) pensioners, the WIA form less than a thousand, yet some of them do not want to wait or allow the verification exercise to run smoothly to have their names inputted into the NASSIT pension payroll system. Funds for WIA pensioners are paid into the NASSIT account on a quarterly basis, and delay in payments normally cause unrest for NASSIT staff.
A functional social security system however is a veritable tool for engendering the bond between government and her citizens, thus promoting political stability and patriotism. Hence, security of life, shelter, food, a guarantee of minimum living wage, care of dependants’ citizen and Senior citizens (aged), unemployment benefits and welfare for the disadvantaged has formed a core course of government. This is why Sierra Leone is lucky to have the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), whose presence is felt across the country and payments of pension, is done smoothly.
NASSIT, under the leadership of Joseph Mans (Jnr), was one of the most vibrant social security institutions in Africa, and its performance over the years in terms of coverage, fund development, and application of international standards of practice, has been impressive in so much that today it has become one of the clear paths for economic development.
NASSIT has been providing income protection for contributors under the specified contingencies of old age, invalidity and death as well as such contingencies prescribed by the government from time to time, such as the Wounded-In-Actions (WIAs).
NASSIT covers both formal and informal sector employees in all forms of productive employment thereby providing an opportunity for every Sierra Leonean to be a member of the Scheme; provide both social and economic benefits for all Sierra Leoneans through investing in various social projects; provide for the vulnerable groups in society through the introduction of a Social Safety Net Scheme; and harness the protection provided by the Social Security Scheme and that provided by the extended family system through support for and strengthening of the extended family to derive the relevant synergies. It is important to understand that NASSIT, technically is not a financial institution per say or an investment institution but it is a Social Security Institution which has its own obligations to it members on social insurance principles.
The challenges it has in terms of the administration of social security like any other country is the compliance in terms of people meeting their obligations in paying for their employees.
The National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) was established by an Act of Parliament, Act No. 5 of 2001, to “provide retirement and other benefits to meet the contingency needs of workers and their dependants” and is thus one such invaluable assets developed by the country in post war Sierra Leone. The Trust invests according to “Its funds to enable it meet its present and future financial liabilities, i.e. payment of benefits” in particular. The main function of the Trust is to provide retirement and other benefits to meet the contingency needs of workers and their dependants. The benefits provided under the Scheme include: Old age pensions and gratuity, Retirement grants, Invalidity pensions, Invalidity grants, Survivors grants, Survivors Pension.