The National Social Security and Insurance Trust on Friday 25th October 2019 organized its first Employers Banquet at the Radisson Blu-Mammy Yoko hotel in Freetown.
The banquet, which brought together Chief Executive Officers, Employers, the State apparatus and key stakeholders in the administration of the scheme, was a platform that not only created networking between NASSIT and the employers, but also an avenue to recognize and award complying institutions, and reminds the non-complying institutions of their obligations to the Scheme.
Addressing participants, the Director General, Mohamed Fuaad Daboh, expressed his gratitude to his guests for the large turnout. “The success of this event would have been farfetched without such a cooperation and support from you all,” he said. Mr. Daboh gave the background to the concept of Social Security and the rationale for the establishment of the NASSIT pension fund, saying that pension schemes were designed to protect the real consumption of individuals and their families against the sudden fall of living standards in the event of the occurrence of a contingency.
Prior to the establishment of the NASSIT scheme, he went on, pensions were nothing to write home about as the amounts were pittance and payments were very late. He reminded his audience that in the past people were not willing to retire as they would manipulate their dates of birth to remain in employment, attributing this practice to the ridiculous nature of the pension system. “The desire to give better livelihood to Sierra Leoneans at retirement culminated to the establishment of NASSIT by the then president, late Dr. Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah”, he stated.
Mr. Mohamed Fuaad Daboh referred to the Employers ‘ Banquet “as a forum where the Trust and the members especially the employers get together to foster improved relationship and partnership, deepen understanding of the scheme members and engender strong commitment to and support for the scheme particularly in the areas of contributions and data management.
The Director General explained that NASSIT was established by an Act of Parliament, Act No 5 of 20th July 2001, and that it is a statutory Trust charged with the responsibility of administering Sierra Leone’s pension scheme which provides retirement and other benefits to meet the contingency needs of workers and their dependants.
Mr. Daboh emphasized that the scheme is compulsory for all in formal sector workers, and that as long as there is an employer and employee relationship, it is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that the employees are registered with NASSIT and contributions paid on their behalf. He further noted that the scheme has a voluntary component to cater for those in the informal sector and the self-employed.
The Director General catalogued some of the activities undertaken by his administration ranging from robust sensitization, increased access to the scheme, staff capacity building, recognition of pensioners birthdays, provision of working tools, nationwide verification of Survivors and Invalidity pensioners and the launching and operationalization of Project 54+, a strategy to minimize the delays in the payment of Benefits.
The Director General also announced to the gathering the preparations to open office in Port Loko, the headquarters of the North-West Region, which will bring NASSIT service closer to the people in that region, and also the plans to construct student hostels on five college campuses across the country as a means to support the President’s Free Quality Education flagship programme.
However, the Director General lamented that the scheme had not gone without challenges, especially the non-payment of NASSIT contributions. In other to mitigate this challenge, Mr. Daboh informed the gathering that NASSIT, through support and cooperation from the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, has established a Social Security Court that will be operationalised in November. He said, with this court, it is hoped that the burning challenge of non-compliance will be addressed. He called on non-complying institutions to change their attitude and embrace change otherwise they would be dealt with by the law.
On his part, the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Honourable Adekunle Joliff Milton King Esq. commended the Director General and Management for organising such a worthy Banquet, adding that it was a clear indication of the Trust’s desire to smoothen and foster a closer working relationship with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. He noted that such relationship was vital to promoting the interest of all stakeholders in the scheme administration.
The Minister reminded employers about their obligations to the Trust in areas of registration of employees and payment of contributions. He implored on all employers to comply with the provisions of the NASSIT Act for peaceful co-existence. “Any contravention of the said provision would warrant the imposition of penal ties and or fines, as provided for in the Act”, he emphasized, while assuring his audience of Government’s commitment to support NASSIT and to pursue non-compliant institutions. He however called on NASSIT to also respond promptly to the concerns of employers, and workers of the Trust.
In his statement, the Chairman of the Sierra Leone Employers Federation Mr. Kobi Walker, who also doubled as chairman for the banquet, lauded the initiative from NASSIT to create the platform to interact and dialogue with employers for an effective networking. He intimated his audience that such engagement was a welcomed move to the Federation as it would create the platform to deepen their understanding and enhance effective collaboration between NASSIT and the Federation.
On the “My NASSIT Companion” handbook, the Chairman commented that the document was an aid to employers in the discharge of their sacred obligations as enshrined in the NASSIT Act No. 5 of 2001. He announced that the Federation would be engaging NASSIT to develop a channel of communication between the Trust and Employers nationwide to discuss issues that will resolve the perineal problems of non-compliance and the delay in the payment of benefits.
Mr. Kobi Walker reiterated that as employers, they were aware that their biggest and best assets are their employees and therefore it is incumbent on them to ensure that they pay contributions for their staff in order to afford them the opportunity of a decent pension. He pleaded with NASSIT to address the issues of delay in the processes and payment of benefit.
The Banquet was climaxed by the distribution of plaques to complying institutions and the launching of ‘My NASSIT Companion,’ handbook, which is a step by step guide for the employers on their responsibilities to the Trust.