Government Chops Workers Pension

It has emerged from Parliament that public sector workers and contractors are being short-changed by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government with regard to its Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) obligations to them, whilst the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) from which contractors are paid, is also cash-strapped as a result of government’s refusal to support the fund. Government last year paid a paltry sum of GHC53.6million to SSNIT as contributions of public sector workers instead of GHC462.5million as budgeted for, leaving a colossal amount of GHC408.9million unpaid which SSNIT could have invested on behalf of workers. The Member of Parliament for Sunyani West and the first deputy minority chief whip, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, who made these known on the floor of Parliament as part of his contribution to the motion on budget estimates for Other Government’s Obligations on Tuesday, said the government had not only starved the GETFund of the necessary monies, but also deprived the National Health Insurance Scheme of the necessary funds for the scheme to operate effectively. According to him, the government was supposed to give 20 percent of Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue which amounted to GHC522 million last year; but it released GHC362million to the fund, leaving a difference of GHC160.7million. “This explains why contractors are crying for non-payment of their contract money.” The MP also told Parliament that the NHIS was seriously suffering from lack of funds because the government had not been paying the money that was collected on behalf of the scheme to enable the scheme function properly. He said customs was supposed to pay GHC363million to the scheme last year, domestic VAT was also to fetch the scheme an amount of GHC212 million while SSNIT was to give 137 million Ghana cedis for the smooth running of the scheme, making a total of GHC713.9million; but the government ended up paying just GHC587million to the scheme. He said this was the reason why the scheme had been cash-strapped and was owing health service providers. He added that the District Assembly Common Fund was also facing the same problem, that was why the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies were crying that they did not have funds to pay contractors and service providers. Hon Baffour Awuah passionately appealed to Parliament to find out where all these monies, which were supposed to be going to these institutions and agencies, had gone to. “The government has seriously been under-declaring and probably diverting the money to do politics, thus putting these important state agencies and institutions into financial distress,” he said. In supporting the motion, the Member for Old Tafo, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, who is also the ranking member of the finance committee, said it was important that parliament played its oversight role effectively to ensure that the government met all its statutory obligations. He said the issue of government consciously or unconsciously depriving the district assemblies of the necessary funds was in breach of the Constitution; and Parliament must ensure that the right thing was done for government machinery to operate effectively. He also wondered why the government in its other obligations overspent its budget by a whopping GHC1.5 billion which seriously affected the reserve fund. This years’ budget estimate of GHC14.6billion for other government obligations was, however, approved by Parliament. Last year, the budget estimate for other government obligations was GHC10.8billion but government eventually spent GHC12 billion. By Thomas Fosu Jnr