Don’t Gamble With Pension Fund

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Kwesi Pratt Warns Gov’t & Workers

Managing editor of the Insight Newspaper, Kwesi Pratt, has said handing over the management of public sector workers second tier pension fund to private entities, will be a highly risky venture.

He said, there was no proof that the private sector would better manage the fund more efficiently than what government was doing or has already done.

Speaking on Radio Gold’s news analysis programme ‘Alhaji Alhaji’ on Saturday, Mr. Pratt said “it is not true that the private sector is always a prudent manager. That is a baseless assumption because the private entity cannot be held liable if it misappropriates monies from the fund”.

Public sector workers across the country, have embarked on a strike action protesting against government’s decision to manage their second tier pension funds, saying it is in contravention of the Pension Law.

The workers say it is their right to manage the second tier pension fund or at least be allowed to appoint their own trustees to manage it.

But Mr Pratt has said that even though it was legitimate for the workers to demand that they are engaged in the management of the fund and ensure that it is instituted in a manner which serves their needs, it will be irrational for them to demand that it be handed over to a private trustee.

According to him, the fund, if managed by government, should give workers the guarantee that they can hold it accountable in the event that it does not properly account for the fund or mismanages it. This he said, cannot be the case for a private trustee.

He said, workers should rather ensure that whatever problems they have with the fund while it is managed by government, are appropriately addressed and that “handing over the fund to a private trustee will not solve the problem”.

He, however, expressed worry at what he says is “the deliberate attempt by the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), to misinform the workers in order to make political gains. It is unfortunate, useless, unnecessary and must be discouraged”.

He said, the NPP must refrain from poisoning the minds of workers and rather make contributions that will benefit them.

Mr Pratt, also blamed government for delaying in addressing the workers’ grievances which started as far back as June this year.

The practice of waiting for workers to embark on strike before their complaints is addressed, he said is unfortunate and that government must make it a point to prioritise the needs of workers.

Meanwhile, the Director General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), has made a desperate appeal to striking public sector workers to return to the negotiating table and come up with a road map that would solve the current impasse with government.

Ernest Thompson, who called into the Joy FM’s newsfile programme last Saturday, said strikes are not the panacea to the ongoing controversy, hinting that the situation might get worse if a lasting solution is not found as soon as possible.

Public sector workers, have declared an indefinite strike in protest over what they say is government’s poor handling of the tier two pension scheme.

The labour unions, want to select their own fund managers to manage the tier two funds, but government says it cannot abdicate its responsibility to the various unions- a decision that has resulted in the workers laying down their tools.

The strike, has seen hospitals, schools and other public institutions empty with dire repercussions on the country’s economy.

Government has described the strike as illegal and has sued the workers.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, wants the courts to make a pronouncement that government is indeed the employer and thus have a say on who manages the second tier pension funds of workers.
The unions are upbeat about meeting government in court.

Even before a decision could be made on the matter, Ernest Thompson, blamed the current impasse on the law.

According to him, the law was passed in a rush in December 2008, at a time when the appropriate structures had not been put in place to execute the policy.

“Custodians were not registered; trustees were not registered at the time,” he opined.

He said at the time the law was passed, the capacity of the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), was even in question and wondered why the necessary due diligence were not corrected before passing the law.

“What has come now is just a tip of the iceberg,” he warned, adding we need patience to resolve the problem.
But Kweku Baako Jnr, Managing Editor of the Crusading Guide Newspaper said, the law cannot be blamed.

He said, it took over four years for the law to be properly formulated and passed. He stated further that even after the passage of the bill into law, a grace period was given, so that all the bottlenecks would be resolved before the first batch of pensioners would receive their pensions.

He wondered why after six years government is now turning around to blame the law for the problem.
He would rather attribute the ongoing challenge to suspicions and mistrust from both sides, adding this could be resolved.

A presidential staffer , Dr Kpessah Whyte, has apologised to leaders of labour unions, who he accused of lacking the expertise to negotiate forcefully on pension related issues.

“I don’t think the comment was intended to malign or was intended to cast doubt on anybody. It was made in the context of a specific policy issue.

“…If they feel insulted then I apologise,” Kpessah Whyte said, after the president of National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Christian Addae-Poku, raised an objection to his comments.

The Presidential Staffer in discussing the ongoing strike action by public sector workers on Joy FM’s newsfile programme, questioned the ability of the leaders of the various unions to expertly negotiate on the issues of pension.

He said, having scanned through the profiles of the leaders of the various unions, he was sure that none of them had the expertise to forcefully negotiate on pension related issues.

That comment was first criticised by a panel member, Nana Akomea, who thought the comment was condescending and an insult to the leaders of the workers unions.

But Dr Whyte was convinced Nana Akomea was playing petty politics with the issue and attempting to pitch the workers against him.

But the President of NAGRAT, who called into the programme did not also take kindly to the comment made by Kpessah Whyte.

Christian Addae-Poku minced no words in his protest and demanded an apology.

The apology finally came with the presidential staffer clarifying that he did not intend to question the competence of the leaders of the labour unions.

Public Sector workers belonging to 12 labour unions, have announced an indefinite strike action that has left doctors and care givers abandoning their patients; teachers abandoning the class rooms and possibly judges vacating the courts.

They are unhappy with government’s handling of the tier two pension scheme. The workers want to select their own fund managers to manage the five per cent under the tier two pension scheme, but government says it cannot allow the individual unions to select and manage their schemes.

In reaction to the strike, government sued the various unions describing the strike as illegal.

The writ, among other things is asking the court to make a pronouncement that government is indeed the employer and also to declare the strike as illegal.

The labour unions are unfazed and have expressed their readiness to meet the government in court.

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