PENSION FRAUD COVER-UP

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WHY is the government suppressing the exposure of a forensic audit report ordered in a pension fund that has been mired in all manner of irregularities including the illegal externalisation of contributors’ funds?

What is being hidden from the public? If indeed there is nothing to hide, why has the report never seen the light of day, almost two years after it was commissioned and completed? If indeed there are ugly facts to hide, what hope is there that these ills will be rectified in the interest of thousands of contributors that have over the years invested their  hard earned money in this scheme?

It is disquieting and a grave anomaly that a fund that has been dealing in trillions of Kwacha has been left virtually scotfree or perhaps with a slap on the wrist when its conduct has left many Zambians destitute all because fat cats have used the money to enrich themselves.

Thousands of pensioners have died without receiving their pension because the law, amended in 1996 allowed interlopers and all manner of fund managers to enter the pension industry with less than honourable intentions.

As a result, many retirees have found themselves in courts of law fighting for their benefits because the pension fund managers did not honour pension benefits that had been promised. Pension frauds are not only found in Zambia, they are common the world over to the extent that a special type of lawyers have evolved specialised in fighting for pensioners’ benefits from unscrupulous employers and fund managers.

Pension funds have been identified as the most lucrative financial flows on which greedy and unscrupulous managers have preyed, by using the funds to enrich and line their pockets with investment benefits which they scheme off in form of consultancy fees, while in other circumstances employers simply fail to invest money which is deducted from employers.

The tragedy in Zambia is that the existing law supports pension theft. Amendments made to the pension law in 1996 open the floodgates for the emergence of pension fund managers who had little or no longer-term interest or welfare of retirees and pensioners.

Their interest has simply been to take easy pickings by way of pension contributions and invest in short- or medium-term investments for their own financial benefits.

Ordinarily, pension schemes should be firmly imbedded within the insurance and pension industry. where it is insured and managed by Life Insurance Companies, as insurance and pension business.

In Zambia by dint of the 1996 amendment, Fund Managers were given direct access to the Pension Scheme and its assets, thereby depriving scheme members of a financially secure life in retirement and old age because the funds were literally separated from the individual or collective contributors.

It is a great disservice to the Zambian people that an anomalous situation should be allowed to exist when swift action would rectify a situation that will continue to consign pensioners into abject poverty.

We have no doubt that Government is fully aware of the serious irregularities existing in the pension industry in Zambia where serious conflicts of interest, many of which have even graced corridors of courts of law have deprived pensioners of their benefits.

Time has come for Government to answer the call from poor and deprived citizens who look up to it to improve their lot by rectifying a clearly irregular and corrupt situation.

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