Turmoil at Nssa

HARARE - As the drama at the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) continues to unfold, a former employee at the pay-as-you-go pension scheme is likely to bounce back to take up Liz Chitiga’s job of chief executive officer (CEO), the Daily News can report.

Insiders at the Public Service ministry told the Daily News over the weekend that Robin Vela’s sacking as Nssa chairperson about a fortnight ago has triggered a domino effect on lower structures, with

Chitiga and some of her key executives at the authority virtually cooling their feet in the departure lounge, while waiting to be given their marching orders.

One of the most immediate appointments the market should expect to see at Nssa in the coming weeks, if not days, is likely to be the appointment of long-serving bureaucrat — Ngoni Masoka — as a caretaker of sorts, deputised by Daphne Tomana, who is currently the acting chair.

But before Masoka, who is the permanent secretary in the Labour and Social Welfare ministry, could come in, Tomana would have completed the hatchet job of dismissing Chitiga — appointed to head Nssa last year after the management team of James Matiza had been shown the door on allegations of mismanagement.

Once Chitiga is out, the idea is to bring in Henry Chikova to replace Chitiga, former managing director of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe.

Chikova had left Nssa in January 2017 after serving the institution for 22 years. He had served as the Nssa acting general manager before Chitiga’s appointment.

Herbert Hungwe — a former employee at Nssa — is also likely to bounce back as director in charge of investments.

He had volunteered for retrenchment a few years back when Nssa embarked on a staff rationalisation and walked away with a golden handshake.

He is likely to bounce back at Nssa courtesy of the latest changes by new Labour minister Petronella Kagonye.

Kagonye was appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to head the ministry in December last year.

Three months into her job, she has wielded the axe at Nssa.

The dismissal of Vela and weekend reports of impending dismissals of the other top executives, have torched a storm, with Vela trashing the basis of his dismissal.

Kagonye had insinuated that Vela was not a resident of Zimbabwe, implying he acquired citizenship elsewhere.

In a terse letter to Vela dated March 27, Kagonye said she had relieved the Nssa chair of his duties with immediate effect.

“Acting in terms of National Social Security Act Chapter 17: 04 Section 8 (a), I wish to advise that you have been withdrawn as member and chairman of the Nssa board with immediate effect,” wrote the minister without providing further details. Chapter 17: 04 Section 8 (a) deals with disqualification for appointment as a member and states: “A person shall not be appointed as a member and no person shall be qualified to hold office as a member who-(a) who is not ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe.”

Vela confirmed the dismissal but was quick to point out that the grounds for his dismissal were baseless and untrue.

“The above allegation is untrue as I am resident in Zimbabwe, I hold a Zimbabwean passport, my kids attend school here, my wife resides in this country and I have businesses that I run here,” he said.

The deposed Nssa board chair, who availed a copy of his Zimbabwe passport number FN369981, believes independent Norton legislator and Mines and Energy portfolio committee chairperson Temba Mliswa was linked to his ouster.

“Allegations of my foreign resident first surfaced in a social media tweet by Temba Mliswa (which read) ‘Is it a fact that Robin Vela is the holder of a foreign passport? How then does he chair the local entity Nssa as a foreigner and how did the CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation) miss this out?’ said Mliswa in his tweet of February 1, 2018.

“The irony of this is that on the same day, Mliswa tweeted that I was an executive chairperson who was responsible for the day to day activities at the authority.

“Of course I laughed this off as social media banter and never did envisage this being taken seriously by anyone as the status of my residence, let alone citizenship can be easily verified,” said Vela.

Many also question the basis for the latest changes given that despite a difficult trading environment, Nssa has succeeded in growing its asset base by 41 percent since the new board came in three years ago.

According to a presentation made by Chitiga to the Zimbabwe Mining Investment Conference held in February, the total assets for the pay-as-you-go pension schemed grew from $917,302 million three years ago to the current $1,297 billion.

This represents an average growth of 41 percent over the three-year period.

Investments income, being interest income and dividends has also increased by 119 percent from $22,755 million to $49,861 million.

Due to increased investment income, a reduction in operating costs (including cleaning up of pensioners’ database through a biometric registration exercise) and increased collections, the authority’s net surplus for the three years from 2015 until 2017 has increased by 760 percent to close at $168 million (unaudited 2017).

The authority also recovered over $180 million arrears from government, which were paid in the form of treasury bills.

On the back of increased investment income as well as increased collections, the authority was able to increase its minimum monthly pay-out to pensioners by 33 percent in October 2017.

Nssa’s minimum pension pay-out of $80 compares favourably against what other players in the industry are offering.

Over and above this, the authority also paid for the first time in the history of its existence, a 13th cheque to all pensioners in the month of December 2017.

Nssa has borne the brunt of negative publicity for some time, largely on the back of “bad” investment decisions.

The media has been awash with issues that Nssa has raised in its investee companies, such as ZB Financial Holdings, Turnall, starafricacorporation, just to mention a few.

However, what is often cited as evidence to this claim are legacy issues, dating back to pre-2015 when the current Nssa board assumed office.

The then Public Service minister Priscah Mupfumira appointed a board to run the affairs of Nssa in 2015.

The new board instituted a forensic audit, which unearthed malpractices which claimed the scalps of the previous executive management.

New management was appointed in June 2016 and tasked with a mandate to change the perception of the organisation, instil a new culture of accountability and performance as well as to be responsive to the needs of key stakeholders – the pensioner.

In line with this, stronger corporate governance practices were instituted by the board on management, and management in turn began demanding stronger corporate governance practices in its investee companies.

Comments (1)

The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) should be managed by Old Mutual in order to protect workers pensions. The institution is being managed by the wrong people, just like ZIMDEF

Ndiani Ndiani - 6 April 2018

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