Thursday, October 5, 2017

The plundering of Social Security Funds and suggested mitigating measures needed in response

Hon. Samba Jallow, MP Niamina Dankunku
The extent of the damage done to the social security scheme at the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation may not be known for sometime to come.

And perhaps not until the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh has completed its work and a thorough assessment of the financial damage inflicted on the corporation by the former Gambian dictator who is currently in involuntary exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Based on what the Commission has revealed thus far, it is safe to say that the Barrow government needs to take immediate defensive measures to protect what's felt of a once financially viable corporation that was established to secure the financial well being of private sector employees during their retirement years.

The social safety net that took years to build as insurance for older workers during retirement has been destroyed by a handful of Gambians, led by Jammeh and his business partners who used the financial contributions of private sector workers into the Pension Fund, Provident Fund and the Industrial Injuries Compensation Fund.

The extent of the damage done to the Housing Finance Fund, the third Fund of the SSHFC is still unclear as the Commission continues its probe.  Pay special attention to the Kanilai Housing Scheme.

Commenting on my Facebook page, Hon. Samba Jallow, the NRP Member of the National Assembly for Niamina Dankunku finally connected the dots, as did many Gambians, when he said, "Sidi Sanneh, this is why when pensioners apply for their pensions and are asked to stay three months before payments is matured."

He expressed the serious nature of the pensioners' predicament and solicited my views on what can be done to mitigate "a very serious" challenge for our country and a serious threat to the welfare of current and future Gambian pensioners.

There are a few defensive measures that could be taken even before the conclusion of the Commission's work to protect what's left of the financial integrity of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation :-

1.  Appoint an apolitical Management Team with proven managerial experience to replace the current team.  A new Board should also be appointed immediately.

2.  Restore the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs as the line Ministry to replace the Office of The President.

3.  Divest SSHFC of all of its 33% shareholdings in Trust Bank and any other commercial bank with the proceeds going towards replenishing the appropriate Funds of the corporation.  The same should apply to other SOEs with similar shareholdings in commercial banks.  Government should be out of the commercial banking business after divesting from the GCDB and closing its Agricultural Development Bank.

4.  Immediate action taken - legal or otherwise - to recover all outstanding loans due to SSHFC

5.   Bar Management from operating outside the Social Security and Housing Finance Act

6.  An oversight Committee needs to be established to ensure that SSHFC Management and Board are strictly adhering to the above until such time, and preferably at the end of the Commission of Inquiry's mandate and the submission of its Final Report and recommendations before remedial measures are taken to prevent this from ever happening again.

At the end of it all, the moral character of the person is as important as his competence and professionalism matters in such positions of responsibility.

Andrew Sylva comes to mind, who as Managing Director of SSHFC worked under Yaya Jammeh but refused to honor presidential directives that would have meant the inappropriate and illegal use of the finances of the corporation.  Mr. Sylva told his fiduciary responsibilities seriously and was dismissed as a result.  Jammeh initially refused him his pension dues only to reverse himself later.