After almost one year of legislation, the Senate yesterday passed the much awaited Pension Reform Act Amendment 2013 with the provision of 10 years imprisonment as penalty for any pension administrator who misappropriates or divert pension funds.
The bill also provides that anyone found guilty of embezzling pension funds would pay thrice the value of what he has stolen.
It also provides for five years imprisonment or N10million fine for any pension administrator who fails to remit profits earned from an investment made with the fund of a contributor.
It also provides for a fine of N500,000 daily for any agency administering pension affairs which fails to abide by any provision of the bill.
Speaking with journalists after the bill was passed, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, Senator Aloysius Etok, who presented the report, said when signed into law, its provisions would be strictly implemented.
“With the enactment and passage of this bill today (yesterday), when assented to by the president, all the penalties and all the prescriptions contained in this Act would be followed. We have penalties ranging from 10 years imprisonment and below.
“For even failing to give proper information, you have to pay N500,000 daily. And if you embezzle pension funds now, you will pay not less than three times the amount of funds you embezzled. That is how serious this bill has treated pension funds.
“If you embezzle N10,000 you are bound to pay a minimum of N30,000 and in some circumstances, the presiding judge has the right to make you refund and even go to prison,” he said.
Etok also disclosed that those found culpable under the old pension law would be tried under the same law, adding that a judge may choose to use the new law to try pending cases under the old law based on his discretion.
The bill also settles the contentious issue of years of experience to be possessed by anyone seeking to occupy the office of the Director General (DG) of Pension Commission (PENCOM).
Whereas the current law provides for 20 years cognate and post qualification experience, the bill reviews it downward to 15 years.
According to Etok, these 15 years include 10 years cognate experience in pension administration as well as additional five years post qualification experience.
He said: “When the committee report got to the chamber on the first day of presentation of the report, the committee’s recommendation of a fit and proper person was rejected and 15 years of post qualification was adopted. So, the post qualification experience for the one who would be DG of PENCOM is 15 years.
“In Nigeria, professional pension administration would be about 10. But we are talking about cognate experience and not post qualification experience. Because if you are talking about post qualification experience, what about somebody who has 30 years post qualification experience with two years cognate pension experience. Is he better than someone with 10 years cognate experience in pension administration?
“So, having realised that we have slightly below 10 years professional pension administration experience possessed by anybody in this country, we decided that if somebody has had five years experience somewhere else and then has additional 10 years cognate experience in professional pension management, that would be a fit and proper person to serve as DG.
“So, the current situation as contained and accepted is 15 years post qualification experience for the post of DG PENCOM.”
The bill also mandates every organisation to pay pension to each employee in its system through a contributory scheme involving both parties adding that any employee who dies shall have his/her pension paid into his retirement savings account through a life insurance policy.
Therefore, the bill assigns head of service of the federation as well as heads of different departments to direct all accounting departments to ensure that any pension deducted is transmitted to the receiving authority. With the passage of this bill, the trauma of waiting for pension after retirement will be over as every worker will have an account known as Retirement Savings Account (RSA) which he can assess once retired or after attaining 50 years of age.