By BENNIE MUNDANDO
GOVERNMENT must set up a commission of inquiry to establish how the law regarding the administration and registration of pension funds was adulterated to suit individuals who had set their eyes on stealing retirees’ money, Edward Mumbi has said.
Speaking in an interview in Lusaka yesterday, Mr Mumbi, who is a development activist, said while there could be ambiguity in any law, taking advantage of such loopholes to commit heinous misdeeds was a crime and that those who had stolen must be made to pay.
He said had the law not been amended in 1997, the mischief that had been created by the Saturnia Regna Pension Scheme where thousands of retirees’ money was illegally invested in offshore accounts could not have happened.
“The only route to take from here is for government to establish where we messed up as a country over the 1997 amendments by instituting a commission of inquiry. This will help parliament remove some ambiguous clauses which are aiding glaring illegality and then compel those who have stolen retirees’ money to pay back.
“The people who engineered the 1997 amendments knew what they were doing. This is why we now have a situation where the PIA says it has submitted the audit report on the operations of Saturnia to Government while the Ministry of Finance is blank about it because criminals know that there is no legal basis on which to deal with them,” Mr. Mumbi said.
He said government must act quickly to save other potential retirees from falling into a similar predicament.
“We are talking about people’s life here and the earlier we rectify the problem, the better because the number of retirees who are yet to receive their dues is piling up every year while there seems to be no hope on the horizon,” he said. Making submissions to the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development, and Social Services on the welfare of older persons in Zambia (pensions), a pension expert, Albert Kashiwa revealed that the 1997 amendment of the law effectively deprived pensioners their benefits.
“Going back to 1966, Parliament had clearly defined the meaning of insurance business as the business of assuming the role of insurance. In 1997, that definition was changed and now says insurance is the business of issuing insurance policies.
“However, this is not a business but merely a task which is there to evidence the existence of a policy of insurance. As a result, there is a problem in both insurance and pension business and is affecting retirees,” Mr. Kashiwa said.