Techiman (B/A) April 28, GNA - A new student loan trust to replace the one run by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) for students in tertiary institutions will become operational in September this year, Mr. Kwaku Osei-Bimpong, Head of Public Affairs Department of SSNIT has disclosed.
He was addressing separate seminars under the theme, "Assisting SSNIT to ensure prompt and accurate payment of benefits" at Techiman and Sunyani for employers and Heads of Department.
Mr. Osei-Bimpong said the non-payment of loans contracted by students was a major cause in the delay of payment of pensions of guarantors and expressed optimism that the new scheme would help eliminate this problem.
SSNIT is currently having discussions with the Ghana International Bank in London to enable student beneficiaries who have travelled abroad to pay back their loans through it to ease the burden on guarantors, the Public Affairs Manager added.
He urged employers to assist in monitoring double registration by former students in employment in their bid to outwit the system and dodge paying back their loans.
Mr Osei-Bimpong announced that, SSNIT collected a total of 27 billion cedis from student loan beneficiaries last year and that a decision had been taken to use the contributions of those in employment to offset loans taken between 1989-98.
He explained that the Trust's vision under the Medium term Strategic Plan for 2003-2007 was to create a new image aimed at developing it into a world-class financial institution, dedicated to the promotion of economic security of Ghanaian workers through their contributions both at home and abroad.
SSNIT is committed to providing a cutting-edge-income replacement scheme for workers and their dependants in their old age, permanent disability, and death through a motivated staff and diligent leadership, he said.
Mr. Osei-Bimpong explained that some of the initiatives to achieve this new image, designed for a three-year period, were to re-focus the staff, integration of customer services into the operations of customer desks and constant monitoring of workers contributions.
Mr. Ben Osei-Bonsu, Brong Ahafo Area Manager of SSNIT said there were 56,983 pensioners nationwide on its payroll as of March this year, with 4,000 of them above the age of 72, saying the highest benefit so far paid since the inception of the pension scheme was 1.2 billion cedis, whilst the highest lump sum paid was 610 million cedis.
He emphasised that every employer was required by law to register and pay each worker employed and "no employer should see its worker as floating under the law".
The Area Manager urged employers to co-operate and assist the SSNIT to ensure a clean and accurate record for employees "whose welfare should be your paramount responsibility as far as their social security is concerned".
At Techiman, the Municipal Manager of SSNIT, Mr. Jacob R. Langma, explained that SSNIT had the mandate to administer the national pension scheme, which saddles it with the primary responsibility of replacing part of the lost income that might be occasioned by old age, invalidity and death.
To enable SSNIT to pay the benefits accurately and promptly, data collection on members are very essential, he said and asked employers to be tactful in the provision of data on their workers.
Mr. Langma said that out of 337 establishments registered with the Techiman office as at March this year with SSNIT, only 64 were regular contributors.
Mr. David Yaro, Techiman Municipal Coordinating Director who presided, called for increased collaborative efforts by employers and SSNIT for prompt payment of benefits.
He urged the Management of SSNIT to properly decentralise the scheme so that workers due for retirement "do not suffer chasing their retirement benefits at the headquarters in Accra, with constant delays and frustrations leading to the death of some of them".
In Sunyani, Mr Emmanuel Agyei-Ntiamoah, Sunyani Municipal Manager, stressed the need for closer partnership and interaction between SSNIT, employers and workers.
He suggested further training of schedule officers to help make the operations of the Trust easier.
The Reverend E.W.K. Kusi, Sunyani Municipal Director of Education, who presided, noted that a big chunk of the teachers were in private schools but were not "hooked" to the SSNIT scheme and called on school managements to ensure that they were covered.
Present was Mr Thomas Agawu, General Manager (Operations) of SSNIT. 28 April 04