Inflation condemns pensioners to poverty

BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA

Pensioners have implored the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) to review upwards their monthly stipends which have been eroded by inflation, condemning them to paupers.

This came after a forensic audit report released recently unearthed corrupt activities at the US$1 billion State pension entity, which led to former Tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira (pictured) being arrested in July over an alleged US$95 million corruption scandal.

The forensic audit exposed corruption, fraud, criminal abuse of office by management leading to a potential financial prejudice of close to $200 million.

Housing contracts were corruptly awarded to undeserving companies and the pension fund also lost millions to a local bank in a corrupt debt swap deal involving the bank’s property.

Pensioners who spoke to NewsDay on Monday, on condition of anonymity, said they were receiving $80 monthly payouts from the pension fund, which they said was a drop in the ocean given the high cost of living.

“We are receiving $80 every month and placing that against the increasing prices of basic commodities, we feel we are being slapped in the face. Some of the women whose husbands were part of the pension scheme are receiving less than $40, an amount that will not last even for a day,” one of the pensioners said.
They said they can only withdraw part of the amount in cash and the balance is accessed electronically.

“We usually get at least $60 cash from the bank and we then utilise the remainder using our bank cards. In order to survive the month, we are forced to do menial jobs in areas we live in. These are the years we are supposed to be resting, but instead, the economic environment we are living in does not permit us,” another pensioner said.

The pensioners said while the argument from NSSA was that they received their monthly payouts in accordance to contributions, there was need for the stipends to be reviewed to cushion the impoverished elderly population from inflation.

NSSA spokesperson Tendai Mutseyekwa said the ministry made a decision to award a once-off discretionary bonus to cushion pensioners.

“In July 2019, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare pledged to cushion NSSA pensioners from the general increase in the cost of living.
The decision was taken as a stop-gap measure, while waiting for the conclusion of a mid-term actuarial review that is being carried out as an urgent matter following significant progress made in the preparation of the authority’s financial statements for the year ended 2018,” he said.

Mutseyekwa said the actuarial valuation will guide NSSA in determining the level of benefits.

“The actuarial valuation, which is being conducted by consultants, will guide NSSA in determining the level of benefits reviews, taking into account recent developments in the economy which have negatively impacted on the pension increase that was under consideration, hence the decision to conduct another actuarial valuation. The first draft of the report is expected to be presented to NSSA by the end of September 2019”

The compulsory national social security pension scheme, NSSA, was established by an Act of Parliament in 1989.

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