WorldStage Newsonline-- Nigeria’s Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has accused some insurance companies in the country of withholding N19.7billion which they ought to have transferred to the agency.
Executive Secretary of the agency, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor said in Abuja on Tuesday that the agency saddled with the responsibility of handling pension matters of pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme was working with the Minister of Finance to ensure that all outstanding legacy funds were transferred to the agency in order to have money to defray some of the liabilities arising from the nonpayment of pensions.
She said the government will determine what action to be taken against such Insurance companies that held the agency to ransom by failing to transfer the funds to the agency.
She said: "The Pension Reform Act 2014 mandated PTAD to take over all pension assets, funds and liabilities of erstwhile Pension Offices and Boards of Parastatals. While these Offices and Boards have been quick to transfer liabilities to PTAD, the funds and assets have not been forthcoming. We have been able to access funds to pay our arrears.
"Since PTAD took over the pension management of Parastatals such as Universities and Colleges of Education in August 2015, legacy pension funds amounting to N19, 137,694,619.94 have remained in the custody of the Insurance Companies.
"We have issued demand notices on the Companies involved, demanding for the transfer of these outstanding funds into our dedicated e-Collection account with the CBN. Till date, only Leadway Assurance has paid funds in its custody.
"We are working closely with the Honourable Minister of Finance to ensure that all outstanding legacy funds are transferred to us. This would enable us to defray some of Government’s liabilities arising from the non-payment of pensions."
She explained that the agency had handed one suspected pension fraudsters to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for prosecution, while working with the EFCC and other keying into the government whistleblower.
According to her, "It is no secret that fraudsters would do all they can to defraud innocent people or the system. This had been the case here in PTAD. All reported fraud cases are reported to the ICPC for their investigation and prosecution where applicable.
"Our collaboration with the ICPC has led to detention of persons impersonating pensioners who present themselves for verification. Already, one of such cases is currently being prosecuted before the High Court, Bauchi with our staff acting as a prosecution witness. We are hopeful that a conviction would be obtained in the case, and this would go along.
"We are also working closely with the EFCC and keying into the Whistleblowing program of the ministry of finance to ramp up our anti-corruption campaign. An Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit has also been set up internally to investigate fraud."
The PTAD boss said in the midst of challenges, the agency had continued to work steadfastly to pursue the improvement of the welfare of pensioners under its management, adding that some areas it had acted as a bold advocate, while in others, it had worked silently with stakeholders to ensure that pensioners always get the best they can from the government.
She disclosed that when it was established in 2013, the agency inherited an estimated 160,000 pensioners which had rose to about 223,000 pensioners from four different pension sectors, adding that the increase was largely due to the swift consolidation of 253 parastatals and agencies under PTAD.
She explained that the number was expected to rise as more agencies are being on-boarded, stressing that it had received a ministerial approval to take over the pension liabilities of government companies that were privatized.
On the verification of pensioners nationwide, Barister Ikeazor disclosed that the agency did not inherit a credible database from any of the pension offices it took over from, adding that while there were nominal rolls, there was no complete database to work with.
She explained that "the lack of the database and information on pensioners in general makes it very difficult to resolve complaints. However, through the on-going verification exercise, which I will talk more about later, we have started the build of the database of DBS pensioners. It never existed, but we are doing it for posterity to ensure that pensioners never have to come out physically for verification again."
She disclosed that so far, the agency had delisted the names of about 15,600 persons who are not supposed to be on the pension payroll, adding that out this number, a few of them who were able to prove that they are genuine pensioners will be restored and their arrears paid to them.