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26.10.2004 General News

Prez Commission on Pension holds public hearing

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Takoradi, Oct. 26, GNA - Mrs Mabel Owusu-Boakye, Deputy Western and Central Regional Area Manager of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has disclosed that many Ghana workers have "signed away their pension rights" for unpaid students loan defaulters. She said though the student's loan scheme forms part of the social obligation of the Trust; it is working to retrieve all outstanding loans.

Mrs Owusu-Boakye was speaking at a day's public hearing of the Presidential Commission on Pensions (PCP) at Takoradi, on Monday. She said several workers sign the loan forms for students they do not know and mostly, without reading the contents of the deed of the agreement.

"We shall deduct one-third of your pension, for unpaid student's loans before your entitlements are paid" the forms indicate she stressed.

Mrs Owusu-Boakye therefore, appealed to all prospective guarantors to read all documents covering the loan before they sign it.

She said it would be suicidal to compare the SSNIT pension scheme to that of other developed countries, because their conditions of service, salaries and other benefits were "far better than ours". Mrs Owusu-Boakye said investments made by the Trust over the years were "not bad" but prevailing economic situations in the country have contributed to such a predicament.

She hinted that, most tenants living in SSNIT flats owe the Trust in unpaid rents and some were sued before they paid their rents. Mrs Owusu-Boakye said the sale of SSNIT flats forms part of the investment portfolio of the Trust and they would be sold to people who can pay to make the fund risk free.

Mr Austin Gamey, a member of the commission said the End of Service Benefit (ESB) was not cancelled but collectively frozen by the Tripartite Committee in 1992.

He said this became necessary because many individuals collected huge ESB's resulting in the collapse of many companies.

Mr Gamey however, assured workers that the tripartite committee, consisting of the Government, Trades Union Congress and the Employers Association, could revoke the law freezing the ESB.

Mr Gamey said though ESB was frozen, there was an option for companies, who could pay to negotiate and pay this to their workers. He therefore, appealed workers and trade unionists to negotiate with their managements for its payment.

Mr James K. Abakah, a pensioner said the undue delay in the payment of pension funds exposed pensioners to the prying eyes of armed robbers and pick pockets.

The Ghana Railway Retired Staff Association in its presentation said, there was a deliberate delay or foot dragging by personnel or the Controller and Accountant General's Department to frustrate pensioners. They said a 50 per cent pension increase announced over two years ago has still not been paid.

The Ghana Registered Nurses Association called on the government to properly register pensioners and make their health needs a priority. They said most pensioners could not afford medical care and die through minor ailments that could have been treated.

They said the new health scheme should make provision for on the job accidents to reduce their plight and financial crisis.

The nurses again called for the establishment of model houses for pensioners to make them enjoy a better old age.

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