Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
THE Insurance and Pensions Commission (Ipec) has named and blamed 57 entities from the mining, local authorities, energy, finance and higher education sectors for non-payment of pension contributions amounting to of Z$5.3 billion.
Pension contribution arrears stood at around Z$5.3 billion as of March 31, 2022, the regulator said in a public notice issued yesterday.
Ipec said it has received complaints from pension plan members who have received reduced or no benefits due to their sponsoring employers’ failure to pay pension contributions after deducting them.
“IPEC has noted with concern the continued failure of some sponsoring employers to remit pension contributions to their respective pension funds to the detriment of pension plan members who end up receiving reduced or no benefits when they mature,” did he declare.
“Employers who deduct pension contributions are required under Section 2(a) of Statutory Instrument 61 of 2014 to make contributions to the pension fund within 14 days of the end of the calendar month in which they refer.”
According to a published list, the Local Authorities Pension Fund and the United Councils Pension Fund (UCPF) dominate with 15 councils, including Bulawayo, Harare, Chinhoyi, Chitungwiza, Kariba, Kwekwe, Victoria Falls and Plumtree Rural District Council, among others.
In the mining and energy sector, Hwange Colliery Company, How Mine, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, Shamva Gold Mine, Zesa Holdings, Zimbabwe Electricity and Transmission Distribution Company and Rural Electrification Authority are on the list.
The other entities are Innscor Africa, Simbisa Brands, FBC Holdings, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Great Zimbabwe University and Grain Marketing Board.
The chief executive of the Zimbabwe Pension and Insurance Rights Trust, Mr Martin Tarusenga, said the non-payment of contributions is fraudulent.
“Failure to pay pension contributions legally deducted from an employee’s monthly earnings and legally supposed to be paid immediately to a given pension fund is simply fraudulent,” he said.
“The company in question should be jailed immediately – it’s like taking money from a weak-faced elderly person and getting away with impunity,” Mr Tarusenga said in an email response to The Business. Chronicle.
“The question of disputes by companies does not intervene, it is just the collection from employees and the redistribution to the pension fund.
And yet, Ipec continues without acting as a regulator charged with the responsibility of protecting pension fund members and pensioners.
“This issue can only be resolved when the regulatory system is strengthened, especially when Ipec board members are not in conflict with the interests of pension fund members and pensioners.”
Ipec has already considered a proposal that would have allowed workers to access part of their pension funds before retirement age in order to preserve the value of their contributions.
In the past, errant employers incurred huge debts with pension funds by not paying contributions, even though they deducted them from employees’ salaries, which crippled the financial operations of many funds.
In March, the Senate debated the Pension Funds and Provident Funds Bill, which aims to improve the current law to protect pension funds.
Errant employers who fail to pay their employees’ pension contributions could face both criminal and civil lawsuits.
Clause 17 of the bill requires employers to remit pension contributions deducted from their employees within 14 days of the end of each month, or face criminal and civil suits, directors or officers of company usually liable for pensions to be sued personally as well as employer representatives. — @nqobilebhebhe