Home » Governance » Pensions Commission of Inquiry Long Overdue [opinion]

Almost a year after Government announced its decision to set up a Pensions Commission of Inquiry to determine rightful benefits from pension and insurance contracts and almost four months since the Finance Minister announced that he is in the process of selecting candidate commissioners for the President’s consideration.

The Commission is still not in place and there are wide speculations about the real causes of the delay in setting up this Commission of Inquiry.

A turnaround time of almost a year does not appeal to public common sense of competitive performance standards of such Government tasks — three to four months being considered reasonable.

Such negative thumbs down public sentiments regarding the Finance Minister’s performance are especially justified considering several factors, not least the urgency inherent in paying out rightful pension benefits to desperate and distressed pensioners, nationwide (as this Commission is set determine), not least that the terms of reference are in place and not least that the outcome of the Commission are in keeping with “. . . national norm on corporate governance and ethical leadership. . .” in the National Code on Corporate Governance, and strategies to get the country to be macro-economically competitive, as recently launched by the Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

There are several speculated reasons why the Finance Minister may be delayed in setting up the long overdue Commission of Inquiry.

Some of these impeding reasons may be structural governance problems and perhaps beyond the immediate control of the Finance Minister, while some may just be down to the failure on the part of the finance minister to adequately prioritise the pensioners desperation and distress, nationwide.

Some of the reasons may be downright dishonourable, if say, the minister receives bribes from insurance companies — it is hoped that the finance minister will not stoop so low.

With regards to the structural governance problems, it is quite possible that the finance minister is being inhibited by the provision of the Commissions of Inquiry Act.

In terms of this latter Act, it is only the President of who can “. . . appoint a commission of inquiry consisting of one or more commissioners and may authorise the commissioner or commissioners or any quorum of them . . . to inquire into the conduct of any officer in the public service, the conduct or management of any department of the public service or of any public or local institution, or into any matter in which any inquiry would, in the opinion of the President, be for the public welfare. . .”

In these circumstances the finance minister would be forgiven for apparent reticence in not informing the public fully about why it is taking so long to set up this commission, if he is being prudent not to harass his boss into acting sooner and as per public wishes.

If in fact the latter scenario is the actual situation on the ground, then there would be unbecoming implications about the manner in which Government operates.

Right on the face of the scenario are suggestions that either the President is overwhelmed with work from his ministers for his attention or that he cannot prioritise work on his desk such as would help relieve the desperation and distress of pensioners in Zimbabwe.

It might be the minister has calculated that he can be forgiven if he uses the President and hence the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act as a scapegoat, if the public turns the heat on him to explain why the Pension Commission has not been set almost a year after its due date.

But to suggest that the President is not prioritising pensioner desperation runs counter to the President’s announcement in the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe in October 2014 that Government is launching a Commission of Inquiry to establish the processes and methods used to convert pension and insurance policy values from the Zimbabwean to United States dollars.

The nation can be confident that the President has all the intention of resolving the nationwide pensioner desperation and distress caused by apparent negligence and fraud perpetrated by insurance companies.

The possibility that the President is overwhelmed with work from his ministers including this national exercise to determine the correctness benefits entitled by insurance companies, could only be true if it is work that has been sitting on the President’s desk awaiting his sign-off since October 2014. Could then this be grounds sufficient to forgive the finance minister?

In these circumstances several other ministers would anxiously be awaiting the President to sign of their respective good work, just as the finance minister would be awaiting sign-off of the Pension Commission of Inquiry.

Surely the President would not be deaf to these many calls to sign-off that much of outstanding work — all for the development of his country otherwise there would be a need for the finance minister and his minister mates to seek a (Cabinet) meeting with the President to address the issue of backlogs on his desk, and to examine whether the problem is really structural.

Structural governance problems appear remote as a cause inhibiting the finance minister from setting up the commission.

Having ruled out the possibility of dishonourable acts on the part of the finance minister and structural problems as causes of the Pensions Inquiry delay, that just leaves a failure to perform in his duty — perhaps even a failure of ethical leadership considering it is pensioner desperation and distress, corruption removal at insurance companies, introduction of competence in pension and insurance industries, that this ministerial task is set out to resolve.

The failure may border on working against the National Code on Corporate Governance and the agenda to improve competitiveness of the country. There is no question that it is the wish of the Zimbabwean public, that of pensioners and pension fund members in particular, that the Vice President Mnangagwa and his Excellency accelerate the implementation of the National Code on Corporate Governance and strategies to bring about competitiveness in the country.

Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent those of the organisations that the author represent.

Martin Tarusenga is General Manager of Zimbabwe Pensions amp Insurance Rights.

Source : The Herald