Now that I have vented part of my anger in the title of my piece, I will stick to explaining why I am angry without any more colourful language. And I won’t bore you with details of the Pensions Act. That is not the object of this article.

Here’s partly why my heart is still pumping with anger, even as I type this article. You will find the story below on the website of SSNIT: [The Management of SSNIT has presented a cheque for ¢500,000 to the Covid-19 Trust Fund at Jubilee House in Accra. The presentation was in response to the call made last month by President Nana Akufo-Addo for all to support the fight against the COVID-19 disease which has become a global and national pandemic.

The Chairman of the SSNIT Board of Trustees, Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor, who presented the cheque, explained that since the operations of the Trust depends on organisations, their workers and the self-employed, the business of the Trust would be gravely affected should these organisations collapse or they lay off their workers.

Dr Addo Kufuor said the Trust therefore deemed it proper to support government with what he described as “pensioners’ mite” to support efforts by government to quickly end the pandemic.]

Question: how many financial sector workers who had contributed to SSNIT for many years, who lost their jobs in the financial sector clean-up and are still unemployed, have received any unemployment benefits from Government or SSNIT during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Some of them have reportedly died, right? How much does the average pensioner receive per month in Ghana? Are they able to survive on their pensions? As I type, over 27 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How many SSNIT contributors and pensioners are likely to benefit from the ¢500,000 donation made in their name and from their many years of sweat? But this is not exactly why I’m angry.

The Pensions Act has created two mandatory tiers of pension that all employees contribute to. Employees have no choice; contributions to these pension schemes are mandatory. Never mind the fact that there is no such thing as unemployment benefit in Ghana, a contributor who faces difficult financial times cannot access any portion of their benefits unless they have retired or meet a number of qualifying conditions.

I can bet my last Cedi that some contributors may be facing starvation right now under the COVID-19 pandemic but would not get even a Pesewa of that GHS500,000 donated by SSNIT. And, they can also not access any of the funds they have contributed to either the Tier 1 or Tier 2 Pension Schemes.

They may be sick and need money to go to hospital, but they cannot access those pension funds. Yet, here we are with SSNIT Management dipping their fingers into the fund and dishing out to please the powers that appointed members of the Board of Trustees.

But let a contributor who is hungry and sick become physically incapacitated or even die, and SSNIT would be willing to immediately pay out his pension benefits to his survivors. It’s as if the law was written to take money away from the contributor, for the benefit of everyone except the contributor.

Take another example. Under Section 103(2) of the Pensions Act, “a scheme may allow a member to use that member’s benefit to secure a mortgage for the acquisition of a primary residence.” Now, take a contributor who on his own has taken up a mortgage to acquire or improve upon his primary residence.

Due to recent unemployment or any other financial difficulties, he is behind in his mortgage payments. He is not due for retirement and cannot access his Tier 2 pension. He is close

to default, with the mortgage company about to foreclose on his primary residence. The Scheme tells him there is nothing they can do to assist him to pay his mortgage arrears. Yet, according to the law, if he loses his current house to foreclosure, he can use his Tier 2 pension benefit as collateral to secure a new mortgage (assuming any bank would be willing to offer him a mortgage after the first default) in order to acquire a new primary residence.

So, this person must go through the trauma of having his family thrown out of his house while his pension benefit is sitting somewhere, and yet once he does not have a place of residence, the law will allow him to use his pension benefit to secure a mortgage to acquire a new primary residence? Does this make any sense to you? What if this person decides to end his life, rather than lose his house and have his family thrown out?

Sadly, once he is dead, his family can access both his Tier 1 and Tier 2 benefits, be able to afford paying the mortgage and keep the house. So, who is the Pensions Act supposed to take care of? Is it not the contributor who has worked his socks off for years and earned the benefits? So why is the law so written and so enforced to the disadvantage of the contributor?

Why in God’s name should a country that has no unemployment benefit or safety net blindly copy a Pensions law from developed countries where the State can support citizens in difficult times?

Check whose businesses get equity investment from SSNIT over the years. Check who gets contracts awarded by SSNIT over the years. Check who are the beneficiaries of all SSNIT investments that went bad over the years.

Check how many SSNIT Management staff have ever been prosecuted and convicted for all the funds that have been dissipated over the years. If you still don’t understand why I’m angry, then I’m not surprised the ruling elite have taken us for fools for so long.

Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako
Accra, 23 April 2020