By Lansana Fofanah.
The National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) has assured pensioners that the institution will do everything humanly possible to fast track payment of their pensions.
In an interactive session with the media over the weekend, the Head of Benefits, Edwin Kamara said that, the institution was dealing with over eighteen thousand pensioners including the Wounded in Action.
He said due to some misunderstanding, the Government of Sierra Leone set up a team comprising the Sierra Leone Labor Congress, the Anti Corruption Commission, the Sierra Leone Police, Ministry of Finance to verify all government pensioners, noting that seven thousand pensioners have already been verified.
Mr. Kamara said that before now, the Accountant General’s Department used to handle payment of pensions, adding that since 2004 that mandate was passed over to NASSIT by the Government, because it has the established structures to handle it properly.
“In 2008, the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT), and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed forces RSLAF, decided to downsize the Army. As a result of that lots of soldiers who sustained injuries (Wounded in Action), during the rebel war were discharged from the Army on medical grounds. This was how we came about to handle the WIA’s pensions scheme”, he said.
He noted that, they used to get a list of pensioners from government regularly for inclusion and that every batch coming has the stated amount which the pensioner is entitled to.
Clarifying why most of the pensioners are receiving what they called a pittance, Mr. Kamara said that NASSIT has nothing to do with the calculations of benefit, and most of the government pensioners could be traced back since railway days when the labor wages law was forty thousand Leones minimum wage. “We are only paid for administrative functions and we only institute what government ordered us to give”, he said.
He said that, the new labour law which states that, the minimum wages for workers should be five hundred thousand Leones, which has seen the least NASSIT pensioner receiving two hundred and fifty thousand Leones monthly upon retirement.
“All NASSIT contributors are not encountering any difficulties as most of them are receiving their pensions through banks.
Mr. Kamara said that the Trust is dealing with two types of pensioners; the Government and NASSIT.
For the government, there are certain laws which qualify a government worker to be entitled to pension despite the age. “Members of Parliament who have completed their two terms in Parliament automatically qualify for pension while the NASSIT requires the age of sixty”, he said.
The Head of Media, Osman Koroma said that contrary to what has been speculated, there has been no increase in government salaries for pensioners.
“NASSIT as a body exists for the people of Sierra Leone. Our goal is to ensure that every pensioner is satisfied upon retirement”, he said
He highlighted action plans underway to enable the Trust to operate based on international best practice.