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SSHFC Serves As A Social Safety Net To Over 400,000 Gambians And Their Dependents.

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“BY AYESHA”

Politics, by its very nature, is corrupting.  This is so because the liberal use of misinformation and outright falsehoods has become an acceptable sin of the trade.

Misrepresenting the truth, or more bluntly, an outright lie in politics is, therefore, tolerable, to some degree, and to the extent that the truth is stretched beyond the breaking point.

However, to the extent possible, deliberate misrepresentation of facts by politicians and non-politicians alike that will impact public policy negatively is unacceptable and intolerable.

The establishment of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation is one of the crown jewels of Sir Dawda Jawara’s presidency, representing a profound public policy statement that became under threat during the dictatorship of Yaya Jammeh.

We have written numerous blog posts about the corporation because of the critical role it can play in providing the necessary safety net as well as generate investment income to contribute toward the government development efforts.  However, as we see in previous posts that you can find here, here and here that potential has been withered to the point of bankruptcy.

Although the corporation has not been rendered insolvent, it has been affected significantly and has, in the process, let down the many Gambian retirees and their dependents because of the corporation’s inability to meet its fiduciary responsibility of meeting the pension payments in a timely fashion to so many Gambian retirees.

In fact, the 400,000 Gambains and their dependents have become the unwilling casualties of the recent crisis – a self-inflicting one at that – by a handful of staff who, we now know, were concerned that careers at SSHFC was threatened after the “Institutional Assessment and Human Resource Audit” consultancy, the outcome of which included recommendations that were to include retrenchment and other rationalization management actions.

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These pending management actions resulting from the consultancy obviously made some members of staff nervous of the likelihood of being affected by a rationalization exercise that led to the demonstrations and other strike actions that were found to be illegal by the Panel.

Throughout the crisis, the disgruntled staff and their supporters have been citing the 200-odd staffers (a figure that has yet to be verified) that have been denied their right to demonstrate.  This claim is not only frivolous but galling because the staff who protested up to the State House and blocking public access to a public building – all on company time ( i.e office hours ) – were breaking every rule in the book as well as the law.

Now that the Panel’s report is out and some of the major recommendations appear to be not in favor of the disgruntled staff, those who illegally demonstrated and blocked public access and their supporters are now suggesting that the large size of the striking staff warrants that they stay and the Managing Director to be dismissed or transferred, among other unreasonable demands.

In fact, the release of the Panel’s report has resulted in the disgruntled staff upping the ante by addressing a letter to the Director General of the State Intelligence Service urging him to use his “honorable office and position [

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emphasis ours] to avert any potential escalation of the tension that may threaten the peace and security of this…institution and our country as a whole.”  The unsigned letter written by one Kebba Touray and published online was pulled down reportedly at the instruction of the author.  Why?  It’s anybody’s guess.

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Whatever their motivation, their insistence on elevating a purely managerial/business matter into a national security issue by a handful of disgruntled staff and their supporters is a matter of grave concern because their behavior is a mark of an unhinged group whose bizarre behavior must be checked and, those found to have broken the law, disciplined as recommended by the SSHFC Panel.

Kebba Touray’s letter justifies our concern at the presence of the Chief of Defense Staff, the Director General of the State Intelligence Service and the Inspector General of Police at SSHFC headquarters to plead with striking staff members who were blocking public access and thus breaking the law.  By their mere presence at what amounted to an industrial dispute, these service chiefs were inadvertently elevating a civil into a military/security matter.  The Barrow administration is not a military administration.  We must therefore keep the military and the security services out of law enforcement and civil matters.

That said, and in moving forward, we must be cognizant of the fact that the primary mission of the corporation is not to pamper the staff but to deliver on the social contract it entered into with its client.  The corporation primary obligation is to the pensioners and not to corporate staff, a message that must be clearly and firmly delivered to every employee of the corporation – from the Managing Director to the office cleaner.

Since the striking employees and their supporters have been touting their number – about 200+ – despite the fact that less than a dozen took part in the demonstrations, we need to also show the number of people whose lives are also impacted in a much more profound manner: –

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The Pension Fund comprising of largely parastatals has an active employer membership of about 58 and 113,600 employee membership, meaning that 58 businesses (private and parastatal entities), a very significant number, by Gambian standards, are contributing towards the retirement benefits of 5% of the 2 million Gambians.

The Provident Fund, comprising of mainly private sector companies, has just over 5,100 active employer membership with 123,000 employees.

The Industrial Injuries Compensation Fund is made up of Parastatals, Private Sector and Security Services with an active employee membership of 153,000.  This figure represents a consolidation of the membership of the Pension and Provident Funds plus the Security Forces.  In addition to these number, there are roughly 3,000 active pensioners, bringing the total sum of direct beneficiaries and their dependents to : 153,000 + 3,000 =156,000 x 3 = 468,000

If we assume that there are 3 dependents for every employee members, given that the employees are relatively young, 468,000 or roughly half a million Gambian lives are profoundly affected  and inextricably linked to the financial well-being of SSHFC which, in turn, is dependent on how the corporation is managed.  The number of a handful of disgruntled striking staffers pails when compared to over 400,000 Gambians and their dependents whose lives could be affected by staff disruptions or mismanagement of the resources of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation.

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