NSSA pays board fees to “ghost” member

Chris Mahove

The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) paid board sitting fees amounting to $11 788 zwl to a member who was not included on the authority’s schedule of board members list, the Auditor General, Mildred Chiri revealed in her recently released 2020 Audit Report provided by the Authority.

Chiri said the said this had led to the authority incurring an expenditure which was not a proper charge to NSSA, adding that the decisions made during the meetings could be rendered null and void.

“The said member also chaired the Audit and Risk committee meeting three times and other committee meetings as well as board meetings for 1st and 2nd quarter for the year 2019,” she said.

The Auditor General said although the authority claimed that the said member had been appointed and withdrawn from the board within a short space of time, NSSA had failed to produce documentation to prove their claims.

She called on the Authority to ensure there was sufficient documentation to support board appointments and produce appropriate documentation to support payment of allowances.

Chiri also noted with concern, delays in the review of the NSSA investment policy, which was issued in 2015 and was due for review in 2018.

She said this led to financial losses as some investments were made without proper guidance and adversely affected the monitoring and evaluation of the authority’s investment performance

NSSA’s policy review guidelines require that the investment policy be reviewed every three years or as and when the need arises.

According to the authority’s guidelines, the rate of return on its investment portfolio should at least match or exceed prevailing market standards.

Despite assuring the Auditor General that a review process has already been initiated and would be ready by Q4 2021, the review has not yet been done.

Labour has often accused the pensions body of having a shadowy investment portfolio and financial position despite handling millions of dollars in public funds every month.

The authority has also failed, over a very long time, to automate the files of its contributors, who include employers, employees and claimants, blaming the delays on constant system changes that have been happening over the years.

This has, however, compromised service delivery by the authority as it resorted to manual retrieval of files which took long while some files in the registry could not be retrieved.

 A tender process for the procurement of cloud storage and equipment, which include scanners and printers for the digitisation of its documents, which was initiated in 2021, is yet to bear fruit.

The Auditor General also noted that the authority was taking longer than necessary to process claims, which tainted the authority’s reputation and lowered confidence in its processes as it affected service delivery.

NSSA blamed shortage of staff in the department for failing to meet the processing timeliness set out in their regulations.

“The Authority was taking over thirty (30) days to process claims from date of receipt. This was in contravention of the Authority’s internal process timelines. On average, the Authority was processing 30% -50% of the total claims received at any given time,” she said.

Chiri, however, noted that NSSA management was now in the process of filling vacant posts in the department and had developed and rolled out a self-service portal in May 2021 which is expected to increase compliance in the submission of returns as well as improve the quality of data cleanliness.

She said the properties and projects procedures manual that was in use during the period under review was outdated adding  officers were now using the draft manual that was yet to reviewed and approved.

Chiri further noted that the Authority was operating with an out dated human resources management guidelines which were approved on October 05, 1995 and might not be in line with current changes and practices/ trends.

“Material irregularity and fraud may go undetected. The Authority may lack recourse in cases of disputes with the employees. The Authority should consider to review its manuals and guidelines,” she said.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General, Japhet Moyo, said labour was not amused by the delays in reviewing the investment policy by NSSA.

“We don’t know exactly why (they have not reviewed the investment policy). Probably it is working for the authority. The authority might not change a policy that is producing their desired results. If the policies are misplaced, I don’t think they will manage to handsomely or adequately pay pensioners,” he said.

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