Thursday, June 16, 2016 1:10 pm
He is astonishingly skilful in fielding questions. He has succeeded in beefing-up the profile of his organization, particularly by expanding its investments nation-wide. Dewitt VonBallmoos is the Director General of Liberia’s National Social Security and Welfare Corporation NASSCORP. Tall and fair in complexion, he spoke to ABUBAKAR HASHIM about the current reforms on-going, the investments of NASSCORP and other related issues
When you look back, what has been the journey, in terms of your achievements and challenges?
We took over the leadership of National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) in 2006 when President Sirleaf first came to power, I was the Deputy- Director General. We met a completely devastated, empty shell of a corporation. Clearly this was after the war period, understandably, the challenges were apparently the same throughout the country. The human resource and, capital capacity were lacking. Even though NASSCORP was established in 1975, and the pension fund in 1988, when we came in, we met almost zero balances. We met only $645,000 and 5 Million Liberian Dollars. There was a back- log of pensions to be paid. We met these challenges and took it head long. First, we had this place automated. Ten years later, we can boast second to non, customized social security automated system. We have won awards from the International Social Security Association (ISSA), a global body, for this process.
Its been a long ten years, we had gradually groomed, from an operational budget of 2m to now a budget of over 30m dollars, in ten years.
NASSCORP is a pension fund. We are all over the country. We are in eight of the counties. Some counties serve other counties, based on economic activities. We have raised our staff level, salaries and standards of living. We have all pensioners paid up- to- date by the 15th of every month. We have about 7,000 plus pensioners that are paid by 15th of every month, through the various banks in the country. With the automated system, all these beneficiaries have bank accounts.
We have also done a lot of investments, mainly in real estate, due to prevailing situation in the country. We are still a new trust fund. So in relation to other African countries, we are relatively young. As we grow, we will increase our investment profile. We have investments in Grand Bassa County, in Lofa county, in Magib and in, Kakata. Our largest investment is the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) building here in Monrovia. As we speak, we are almost completing our new headquarters building at 24th Street, Sinkor and simultaneously, constructing a first class Diagnostic Centre, which will be ready by July next year.
We have also partnered with the National Housing Authority to construct Low Cost Housing for the general population. This is in line with the vision of the present government, to make housing affordable to the vast majority of Liberians. It is in joint collaboration with the Liberian Bank for Development and Industries (LBDI).
We are in process of having a pension reform. The laws were done in 1975 and 1988. They need to be reformed to meet the present situation. This reform will increase our efficiency.
Could you please explain this pension reform?
You see, what was applicable, say in 1975, clearly need to be changed. We are taking it up to Madam President, for onward presentation to the legislature for appropriate amendment. Areas of reform like the contribution rates need to be adjusted. The vesting period need to be adjusted.
All these need to come in conformity with what prevails in the region. Liberia, as we speak, is the lowest in the region, particularly in these areas of contributing and vesting rates. In fact, these areas are subject to review every five years, because it has to be relative to be prevailing situation. Hopefully, before the end of the year, we will have achieved these reforms.
What are your challenges so far?
Our basic challenge so far is getting our pay rolls. Because we’ve automated our system permits us to get our pay rolls from employers electronically and distribute payments electronically to individuals’ accounts. For instance, an employer will send in a cheque of say, $10,000 for employees. But who are these employees? So submission of pay roll by employers is a formidable challenge. The details of employees are lacking.
The other challenge is defaulting employers. Defaulting put the work force at risk. So also their pensions will be at risk. You also have employees that do not remit. So it is our responsibility to find out these discrepancies and normalize them.
What is your relationship with other Social Security Corporations in Africa and in the Sub-Region?
As we speak, the head of the Social Security in Nigeria and I are on the committee of ISSA. We meet twice a year. We have a cordial relationship with Sierra Leone, Ghana and others, particularly in training. So also with the Gambia.