MASVINGO –The pensions sector is holding on to RTGS$196 million in unclaimed pensions, the Commissioner of Insurance and Pensions Commission Grace Muradzikwa has said.
Muradzikwa said this when she addressed scribes from across the media industry in Zimbabwe during an Insurance and Pensions Commission and National Social Security Authority (NSSA) mentorship program for Journalists conducted online beginning Tuesday last week.
She said that the matter was of serious concern to the pensions sector as there are 153 000 people who have not claimed their pensions and chances are that they wallow in poverty while their money sits idle with pension administrators.
Muradzikwa said pension funds records are in bad shape and that is one of the reasons why many people are failing to access their benefits.
Her sentiments were echoed by various other insurance executives including respected economist Luckmore Chivandire who actually described Pension Funds records as shambolic.
The Mirror gathered that names on national identity cards of claimants are sometimes different from those on Pension Fund records making it difficult to make claims.
There are also thousands of claimants whose whereabouts cannot be traced. Some migrated to remote areas and live in far flung places like Chikombedzi in Chiredzi where it is expensive to travel for their pensions.
Some rural based beneficiaries are weary of the cumbersome process of applying for pensions, according to various industry executives who commented on Muradzikwa’s statement.
In some cases beneficiaries are not even aware that they have a pension.
Muradzikwa said that the industry would soon launch a search engine in order to track down beneficiaries who are not making their claims.
Chivandire who is with the National University of Science and Technology Department of Graduate School of Business concurred with Muradzikwa when he recently published his research on pension schemes in Zimbabwe.
He said the schemes lacked actuarial compliance, internal audits and they lag behind in the use of information technology. He said records are manual and shambolic thereby bringing a huge burden of inconvenience on beneficiaries.
“This has resulted in millions of dollars in unclaimed benefits thereby prejudicing the contributors. Some pension funds lack oversight functions such as Actuarial compliance and internal audit. Others have no procedure manuals and investment policy,” said Chivandire.
Efforts to get a comment from the Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) which is one of the biggest funds in the country were futile as emailed questions were not responded to until the time of going to Press.
NSSA Marketing and Communications Executive Tendai Mutseyekwa who represents the country’s largest pension scheme said IPEC regulates private sector players only and NSSA is therefore not included in the RTGS$196m presented by Muradzikwa.
The Mirror however, established that NSSA faces the same problems of unclaimed benefits. As a result, the authority is currently running several radio programmes where it encourages beneficiaries to come forward and claim their benefits. The programmes are run under different names on different radio stations including National FM, YAFM, Nyaminyami and Diamond FM.
The radio proramme run by YaFM is called Rongeka uchirongeka neNSSA and the Diamond FM programme is Ramangwana rakajeka.
Muradzikwa also expressed concern at pensionable salaries that are not tracking inflation. The result is that beneficiaries are losing immense value in their money.
She also raised concern at non-pensionable salaries obtaining in many organisations as workers are being given allowances to cushion them against inflation. These allowances are not pensionable, she said.
She said pension contributions grew by 471% from $212 million as at June 2019 to$1,2 billion as at June 2020.
“The concern is that the 471% is lagging inflation which is now close to 900% showing that salaries are not tracking inflation,” she said.
The objective of the mentorship programme is to raise insurance and pensions awareness among members of the Fourth Estate and inspire interest and excellence in the coverage of issues pertaining to the sector.
The ultimate goal is to educate the nation and improve perception and uptake of insurance and pensions cover. https://masvingomirror.com