PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY MR ERIC AGBE-CARBONU, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GRADUATE TEACHERS (NAGRAT)-GHANA ON THE GES OCCUPATIONAL PENSION SCHEME ON THURSDAY 9TH AUGUST, 2018
AT NAGRAT LYCEUM
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media. We appreciate your quick response to our invitation and warmly welcome you to this Press Conference. The National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) has called you here this morning to register our protest at the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) and the Ministry of Finance at the manner in which they are managing our pensions.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, the issue of Pension is an issue of life and death. It is common knowledge that in this country, majority of pensioners die prematurely due to the paltry lump sum they received as pension. The agitation for higher lump sum by public sector workers led to the establishment a Presidential Commission on Pensions by President Kuffuor in 2004. The work of the Bediako Commission culminated in Act 766, popularly referred to as the Three Tier Pension Scheme with a mandatory first and second tier and a voluntary third tier. This Scheme promised better returns to the Ghanaian worker. But as a “defined contribution” scheme, what a worker gets depends on how long and how prudently his contributions have been invested and managed. Any delay in releasing payments to the scheme for investment amounts to less returns. The excitement of workers were short lived as politicians sought to hijack the funds by going contrary to what the Act says. It took several agitations from workers, including going to court before an agreement was reached to release the funds to the beneficiary schemes.
Following the agitations for the release of the Temporarily Pension Fund Account (TPFA) to Public Sector Workers Schemes namely; Health Sector Occupational Pension Scheme, Judicial Service Occupational Pension Scheme, Hedge Master Trust Occupational Pension Scheme of CLOGSAG and the Ghana Education Service Occupational Pension Scheme, all other TPFAs were released in November, 2017 except that of the Ghana Education Service. Those that have had their TPFA released to them have invested the money in profitable platforms and ventures, hence ensuring that their members retire in comfort. However, about Ten (10) months down the lane, that of the GES is yet to be released. Only God knows what the money is being used for since the NPRA is not cloaked with the authority to invest the money. Consequently, the teacher loses after serving his country faithfully for several years and goes home on retirement with a lot of frustration to die in abject poverty and misery.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, even though a request was made to the Chief Executive of the NPRA to transfer the Temporarily Pension Fund Account to the GES after a stakeholders’ meeting in June 2018, this has not been done. It is rather disappointing and somewhat annoying that the NPRA Chief Executive Officer acting on the whims and caprices of the powers that be, is indicating to the Trustees that the transfer of the funds need to be accompanied with the membership contribution data as well as each member benefit statement in order to enhance the schemes ability to pay benefits hence, its inability to release the funds. The NPRA’s refusal to transfer the funds to the GES Trustees for proper administration is against the law (Act 766). Instead of concentrating on their core functions as regulators, the NPRA is now managing teachers’ funds for reasons best known to itself.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, as we speak Teachers’ Pension Funds amounting to one billion seven hundred and thirty million Ghana cedis (GH¢1,730,000,000.00) which should be with the scheme for prudent management is still with the NPRA. Our investigations have revealed that teachers are losing so much due to the poor investment by NPRA. We are highly disappointed with the way teachers’ future is being toyed with by the NPRA and some unseen hands in government. NAGRAT is aware of a lot of machinations by a few political gurus to sacrifice the general interest of teachers for their personal and egoistic gains. We also have reasons to believe that government has remained glacial in helping teachers get the best out of their 2nd tier pension because teachers’ contributions have now become a cheap source of funds for government. Until proven otherwise, government’s dedication to making the GES Occupational pension scheme work remains weak and trifle. Come the year 2020, a lot of the teachers will be retiring under the new scheme but there is nothing available to assure these unfortunate colleagues of ours that their lives will not be more miserable than their counterparts retiring under SSNIT. NAGRAT therefore wish to bring to the attention of NPRA and government that it is not from their benevolence that this scheme should be made to work. The funds, by law, belong to teachers and must be invested in accordance with the law. Teachers called for these reforms and we are highly concerned about the persistent encroachment by government in the implementation of the scheme.
The Controller and Accountant General’s Department’s lackadaisical attitude towards the release of the said data makes them complicit in this conspiracy to frustrate and undermine the object of the fund since members retiring very soon cannot access the fund.
We find this position very hypocritical and discriminatory. The question worth asking is; what data did they use to transfer money to the other schemes?
Contrary to the bold declaration by the Finance Minister in the Mid-year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2018 Budget that “we transferred the total amount of GH₵3,001.73 million being the total value of funds in the Temporary Pension Fund Account (TPFA) and restored workers pension funds to the five (5) Public Sector Pension Schemes something that the previous regime had been unable to do for seven years”, the GES Occupational Pension Scheme has not received Teachers Pension Fund for it to be managed.
The Minister of Finance has suddenly lost the formula for transferring pension fund when it came to the turns of the teachers. We reject the spurious excuse that the consultant has to be engaged to generate membership contribution data before the funds can be transferred. We are aware of proposals to replace the custodian, fund manager and scheme administrator with Prudential Bank, Glico Insurance and Data Bank. We hereby demand that the Government take their hands-off Teacher’s Pension Funds.
The political interference in workers tier 2 pension schemes which started in the previous government where Pension Alliance and Universal Merchant Bank were imposed on us is repeating itself in the current government where Prudential Bank and Data Bank are being imposed on us. We asked the Board of Trustees of the GES Fund to be resolute and prudent in the choice of service providers and not lend itself to the machinations of politicians.
NAGRAT will want the trust board of the GES occupational Pension scheme to be up and doing and be guided by its fiduciary responsibility of ensuring that prudent decisions are taken in the interest of the teacher. They are reminded that the representatives of the GES members are in the majority in the board. One wonders why minority desires overwhelms the majority in decision making. Though the law allows the government to make nominations, those nominations must be approved by the board which is the appointing authority. In the light of this, we expect that the decision of the board will be taken in favour of the teachers.
In conclusion, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) demands an immediate transfer of our funds from the Temporal Pension Fund Account being held by the NPRA to the GES Scheme. That the Ministry of Finance removes all impediments in the way of the NPRA and the Board of Trustees in this endeavour. That the position of the law and the out-of-court settlements should form the basis of decisions in the management of our scheme.
We hold to the following:
- the Board of Trustees of the GES Occupational Pension Scheme is sufficiently allowed the free hand to effectively manage the Occupational Based Pension Scheme for the benefit of GES workers;
- the contributions for the Occupational Based Pension of our members in TPFA is transferred to the Scheme Trustees with the investment made on the past credit of members and the returns there accrued are transferred to the Scheme’s Service Providers as well.
- that government hands off any attempt to influence the investment and management of our funds.
NAGRAT will want to serve notice that if the funds are not transferred to the Scheme, we will not have any other alternative than to embark on series of industrial actions to ensure that what is lawful is done.
ERIC AGBE-CARBONU SAMUEL FRANK DADZIE
PRESIDENT GENERAL SECRETARY