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12.05.2004 General News

SSNIT adopts new students loan recovery methods

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Takoradi, May 12, GNA - The Management of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), on Tuesday said it would use contributions of defaulting workers to defray their outstanding students' loans.

Mr. Kwaku Osei-Bimpong, Head of Public Affairs of the Trust said the exercise was meant to collect the several billions of cedis owed by former students who were presently gainfully employed.

Speaking at a press briefing at Takoradi Mr Osei-Bimpong said though students repaid 30 billion cedis to SSNIT last year, the figure and repayment rate was woefully inadequate.

He said the decision to use part of the defaulters' contributions formed part of a five-year medium term strategic plan, which was launched in 2003.

Mr. Osei-Bimpong said though most of the targets were achieved last year, the Trust had reviewed the plan to enable it to meet the expectations of workers and improve the payment of benefits to pensioners.

Mr. Osei-Bimpong said between May and December this year, the trust as part of its review exercise, would undertake pilot studies in six towns including Takoradi to find appropriate ways of including the informal sector in the operations of the SSNIT.

He said 174 establishments out of 668 operating in the Western Region were indebted to the Trust.

"So far, we have prosecuted 50 employers and would continue if all attempts to negotiate for the outstanding debts fail," he stressed.

Mr. Osei-Bimpong said to address the provision of inadequate financial statements by the Trust, which was a major problem confronting SSNIT, it had set up a membership accounts unit in all its offices, to check the anomaly and provide accurate data on members contributions. He assured workers that "the Age 54 project" launched last year, was not meant to retire people but to enable the trust to prepare up-to date records on each person, within that age group and to facilitate the easy payment of benefits.

Mr. Osei-Bimpong added that those below 54 would be the next in the series of reviews to make the Trust's accounts and data accurate. He stressed that the 2.5 per cent of the contributors money that was being demanded for the National Health Insurance Scheme, would be the workers' premium.

"It will be a lifetime contribution and will serve workers during their pension as their contribution towards health insurance" she explained. Mrs Mabel Owusu Boakye, Area Manager, asked workers whose employers refused to pay SSNIT contributions on their behalf to inform the Trust. She said, the Trust would soon send its task force to hold discussions and those who were found to have defaulted, would be made to pay the entire 17.5 per cent for the workers without deducting anything from their salaries.