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22.01.2006 Feature Article

Rejoinder: Students Owe SSNIT ¢1.4 Trillion

Rejoinder: Students Owe SSNIT ¢1.4 Trillion
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The General News of Friday, 13 January 2006 reported of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) facing the danger of being run down if students from the tertiary educational institutions in the country continue to shirk the responsibility of repaying the student loan they benefited from SSNIT after school. The report said Students who have passed through the country's public tertiary educational institutions owe the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) ¢1.4 trillion since the inception of the Students' Loan Scheme. The question we want to ask is, has the SSNIT made any efforts to contact these defaulters directly?

The report added that in 2004, the Head of Students Loan Department of SSNIT disclosed that the Students Loan Scheme is being crippled by the failure of tertiary students who complete their courses to pay back their loans. Additionally Mr. Bimpong noted that in 2001, out of ¢192 billion disbursed under the SSNIT Students' Loan Scheme since its inception in 1988, only ¢8.12 billion was recovered. This meant beneficiaries owed the scheme more than ¢183 billion at that time. "This situation does not promote sound business practice and the survival of the loan scheme.” He lamented.

It is not enough to shift the entire burden on pensioners who have guaranteed for some of these defaulters to have their pension funds withheld by the Trust when little to no effort has been first made to reach the defaulters. This author is sure defaulters who are now in Diaspora will be more than willing to send their payments if they are notified directly.

According to Mr. Osei Bimpong, the Public Relations Officer of the Trust, as of October last 2005, only ¢191.3 billion had been paid. He said total disbursement was ¢732 billion with ¢700 billion of interest accruing on the principal. Would it be wrong for this author to guess that what SSNIT has been able to collect were deducted from individual's pay roll? Many of the beneficiaries who have defaulted may not be in the country now but that is not the issue. The issue is many do not even know if they owe and if they do they don't even know how much. The issue is not that all the students who have benefited from the loans do not want to pay after graduation but the SSNIT has no sound structures to collect payments outside those who are working in the system. How do those who are not in the system pay? Do the pioneers who benefited from Student Loans even know how much they owe today and what interest it is accumulating? Has the Public Relations or whom it may concern in the Social Security and National Insurance Trust ever written to defaulters asking them to pay back? I bet most of the beneficiaries don't even know how much they received in loans being among the pioneers of the system. It used to be perceived as grants.

Like this author many may never have been contacted or received any letter from the SSNIT that their account is delinquent. The unfortunate thing for SSNIT is that they want the borrowers to come to them instead of them going after the defaulters. The sad news is should one approach the SSNIT office to make any settlement one can be sure to be frustrated by the office staff; one can count on waiting in the office for at least 8 hours to make a simple payment. With the “go and come” politics in Ghana it can easily be presumed that SSNIT would frustrate honest and patriotic folks who are willing to make cash payments. If this author is wrong let SSNIT say so and tell us what structures they have put in place to ensure smooth and swift payments in their branches. It is a big mistake for the SSNIT to expect defaulters to come to them and wait for hours in a queue before they can make any payment.

May we suggest that SSNIT first sent a collection letter to those whose account is delinquent and make conducive provisions for defaulters to make payments. For those in the Diaspora we should be able to wire/transfer the equivalent in foreign currency as per our country of residence and receive instant acknowledgement or receipt from SSNIT. Payment can be made in the respective embassies. However, if SSNIT wants the money wired as an international transfer they must be prepared to bear all associated fees.

Rather than the SSNIT talking about it in general terms why don't they go ahead and write to the defaulters and make an attempt to collect their monies. For all you know there are no records of the recipients who are said to be defaulting. This buttress the importance of a national identity card or a social security number. It is true that all those who have received the loans have social security numbers of some kind but how effective is it helping SSNIT? If it is working then why has not the SSNIT written to individuals who owe by now? Just publishing complaint speech would not bring about the payment. Former graduates need to know how much they owe to date and where they can make the payment.

If we may ask: what efforts has Mr. Bimpong's outfit/department made to reach the defaulters as of today January 14, 2006? Let's forget about the beneficiaries who are still in school now. This author is challenging SSNIT to communicate directly to the borrowers, give them say 3 months to make payment or find their names and amounts owed published in the National Newspapers. Caution though would be, making every effort to contact the borrowers first. If the SSNIT cannot do this then they must keep quiet and bear the lost for their inefficiencies then. By Okyere Bonna, Secretary, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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