The last few weeks have been quite an; eye opener for me as relates to the general apathy and obvious ignorance against the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) operations and mandate.
Perhaps due to the infamous heritage issues that previously dogged the fund, I am afraid the public still holds the NSSF with a measure of scepticism.
Indeed, nothing could have illustrated this degree of scepticism than our recent call for to employers asking them to ensure that all domestic workers are, registered, with the fund.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse and this means that, all employers are, required by law to register their employees with NSSF and remit their contributions or risk legal action.
Further, there has been a misconception that, perhaps NSSF has been acting on its own behest; nothing could be further from the truth. At all times, NSSF has been acting within the Constitution and the NSSF Act.
At the very onset, let me start by assuring that the NSSF of yesteryears is long gone. My personal assurance on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Management and staff of NSSF is that all the funds are safe and above all we have no intention of causing friction between the fund, employees and employers.
The government, I must admit has in the last few years worked tirelessly to infuse a customer centric culture at the fund.
Indeed, this culture can be, traced from the retention of competent and experienced managers to spearhead reforms at the fund. Alongside the human resource capacity, the fund has also invested heavily in the integration of Information Technology systems to shore up our corporate efficiency.
In tandem with the reforms, a key financial loophole touching on our investment funds has also, been plugged by way of outsourcing our investment funds management duty to six reputable local fund managers. This means that poor investment decisions such as those witnessed in the 90’s will never be, repeated at NSSF.
These are all key transformational elements that are, now being, undertaken to ensure that NSSF regains its lost glory. In addition, even as these initiatives’ are undertaken, our members can rest assured that legal recovery measures for any monies siphoned from the fund are well underway.
Away from the heritage issues that have previously dogged the fund, let us take a moment to consider NSSF’s mandate as a statutory social security provider in Kenya.
Firstly, The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) was established in 1965 by an Act of Parliament (CAP 258 of the Laws of Kenya) to act as a provident fund scheme for ALL workers in Kenya. Key word here is ‘ALL’ workers and not a section of workers.
Perhaps having foreseen the confusion that may have arisen in trying to explain who an employee is or is not, the NSSF Act Cap 258 notes that an “employee” includes a minister of religion while an “employer” includes any person or body from whom a minister of religion receives his stipend.
That was one of the safeguards placed in drafting the NSSF law to help guide its translation particularly on the case of exceptions.
Back in 1965, the government had rightly foreseen the need for social security particularly in old age after retirement from active nation building service. It is instructive to note that for a number of years, the Fund initially operated as a government Department until 1987 when the NSSF Act was amended transforming the hitherto Ministry of Labour department into an autonomous State Corporation.
Consequently, the NSSF Act was, revised in 1989 to reflect key organizational changes including the corporate governance structure that incorporated a board of trustees as per global Social Security Funds management benchmarks.
Having recently taken over the mantle as the Managing Trustee at NSSF; backed by a supportive management and staffing force, we have jointly set out to ensure that all workers are registered with the NSSF as prescribed by law.
Without having to suffer the strains’ of yesteryear problems, which are, being, addressed by various legal organs; our work is cut out on ensuring that we provide sufficient social security coverage to all our members.
Our commitment to ensure that all workers including domestic workers are, registered with the fund is, inspired by the provisions of the new constitution and the international appreciation that Social Security is an emerging human right.
In the Kenya Constitution 2010, the Economic and Social rights provisions under, article 43 guarantee the provision of social security to all.
The spirit of the constitution and particularly Article 43 was to ensure that all Kenyans receive equal economic and social rights. This was a very explicit article rightly intended to clear social and economic discrimination which as has been previously exercised under the guise of various hindrances.
For example, registering your domestic worker who draws a salary for his/her hard work at your house and indeed acts as the caretaker for your prized possessions’ should be a primary social security agenda. The reason for such an agenda can simply be, attributed to our national interest to secure and deliver all citizens from the cyclic yoke of poverty.
Indeed, extending social security protection to vulnerable members of society is but the first step to facilitating national development. In its core formulation, social security through a provident fund helps to inspire a personal savings culture, which ultimately presents a range of benefits.
Against this background, NSSF transformation efforts particularly our efforts to provide coverage to all have been identified as a key agenda of the Government under the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta. During the opening of parliament, one of the key focus areas that the president spelt out touched on the government’s commitment to invest in our greatest capital resource – our people and provide what our constitution demands – social protection for every Kenyan.
The government’s basis for highlighting this agenda is, premised on the fact that our government acknowledges the globally held principle that social security is a fundamental human right and everyone is entitled to social security.
As a fund, we can ill afford to be pulling away from a government effort to deliver social protection for al Kenyans and will continue to; steadfastly play our role as per the constitution and the guiding laws of the land particularly the NSSF Act Cap 258.
To clear the existing discrimination against domestic workers and other low cadre workers we shall actively rely on the provisions of the NSSF Act, which allows the fund to commence criminal and civil proceedings against employers defying the law. Such provisions will also guide us in ensuring that we contain the rampant evasion and failure by thousands of employers to; dutifully remit their employee contributions to NSSF.
In coming days, failure to comply with the NSSF Act will mean that NSSF officers may soon be instituting proceedings in magistrate courts to ensure full compliance. The NSSF Act Section 39 provides that: “All criminal and civil proceedings under this Act may, without prejudice to any other power in that behalf, be instituted by any inspector or other officer of the Fund and, where the proceedings are instituted or brought in a magistrate’s court, any such inspector or other officer may prosecute or conduct the proceedings.”
From the above, I can confirm that the current NSSF Board of Trustees and management team appreciates the need to enhance our corporate governance to win the confidence of our members and other stakeholders.
In the same breadth, we humbly implore all our stakeholders to accord us the necessary support to enable us achieve the obviously onerous task of facilitating social security for all.
Mr Odongo, is the managing trustee at the National Social Security Fund. [email protected]