By Peter Adika
Social and economic questions remains sticky and don’t seem to get fast, comprehensive and rational resolution. Yet, universally and under the new Constitution, social security is a basic human right.
Lately, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Board of Trustees has embarked on a strategic programme, which among many things, has led to the recent unveiling of its new corporate identity.
The decision to adopt a new pension model is therefore not only timely, but is anchored on the need to align the mandate of NSSF to meet provisions of Article 43 (1) (e) of the Constitution, which has made social security a right for all Kenyans.
Significantly, though faced with criticism and anxiety from certain quarters, the on-going transformation is fairly participatory and consultative having engaged various social partners and key stakeholders, including Central Organisation of Trade Unions and Federation of Kenya Employers with a view of enriching the draft NSSF Bill 2012 before its presentation to Cabinet and Parliament.
What is positive is the emergent gradual departure from past stigma of negative branding accorded to the Fund. Slowly, there is growing appreciation among the public that NSSF in its current form cannot offer adequate social and financial security that it was envisioned to provide at its inception in 1965. This has certainly not come on a silver platter and is however, yet to be fully accomplished.
This foregoing reality is behind the passion and momentum that drives the on-going NSSF transformation. More fundamentally, the paradigm shift, which the envisioned conversion process entails, is founded on the realisation that the single lump-sum benefits paid to members, have been woefully inadequate to cater for changing needs upon retirement.
Offering modest and continuous pension payments is more rational and resonates well with the majority of the clientele. The Bill has many other positives. A members’ AGM will be held annually after the inaugural one on September 17 and Kenyans in the Diaspora can now get their benefits.
To achieve maximal and structured impact, the transformation process of the Fund is modeled in line with Vision 2030 and the National Social Protection Policy, which recognise that provision of social security is as an essential vehicle to alleviate poverty and hence the need to expand the scope and coverage of benefits to all eligible Kenyans. While a portfolio of Sh110 billion in managed funds and growing....over four decades is no mean achievement, compared to her counterparts in Uganda and Tanzania, NSSF lags behind in terms of adequacy and range of benefits in the provision of social security to its members.
A Greek philosopher once said, “Nobody is rich enough to buy their past.” NSSF has had a dirty past. Admittedly, the most critical challenge for the Fund is not where it projects to go in the future, but how the transformation Bill will address its past negative legacy and infuse effective corporate governance practices.
Hitherto, it’s been riddled with mega- scams that resulted from political manipulation, which unduly resulted in imprudent investment decisions and massive loss of members’ funds. There is little doubt that the NSSF management is alive to the prevalent negative feelings and has lately taken every opportunity, through its CEO, to admit that indeed the Fund’s past was undesirable and costly.
Unfortunately, recent counter press conferences do not augur well for Kenyans as the best route through which the substance of the proposed Bill can be enriched to guarantee better and sustainable social security for Kenyans. There are no scores for grabs. It is the public that is at risk of suffering.