l To write up probe by December 31 l Commissioner wanted more time
Darlington Musarurwa and Africa Moyo —
THE commission of inquiry that was set up by Government to probe the conversion process of pensions and insurance benefits after dollarisation in 2009 is winding up its work after its tenure was extended to December 31, 2016.
It now has 48 days to complete its mandate.
Initially, the eight-member commission, which was sworn in on August 19 last year, was given one year to conduct the inquiry, which lapsed on August 31 this year.
The four-month extension is however, markedly shorter than the 12-month extension that was initially sought by the commission, which argued that the amount of work it had to go through was huge.
On September 26, 2016, The Sunday Mail Business reported that the commission had approached Government, through their parent ministry — Finance and Economic Development — pleading for more time.
It is understood that commissioners were dividend over the time it would take to successfully come up with solid findings. While some pushed for a six-month extension, others needed another year.
The commission’s chairman, Justice George Smith, conceded in an interview last week that although Government had granted the extension, the time is seemingly short because of the December holidays.
“Yes, we got an extension to December 31, 2016. Actually, there was an SI (Statutory Instrument) that was gazetted recently to that effect.
“We have to finish, but the trouble is that there is not much to do especially in the last two weeks of December (because of holidays).
“We are working hard to finish by December 31. There is a lot to do, when you think of how many pensions are there, and some of whose papers were not done properly . . . It is the paperwork that is unbelievable,” he said.
But there are some who believe that there are officials in the Ministry of Finance that want to frustrate the current work since they are, in part, culpable for the challenges that affected the pensions and insurance industry as it happened under their watch.
There seems to be challenges in verifying the Statutory Instrument amending Proclamation 8 of 2015 — which effectively set up the commission and spells out its terms of reference — as it is not numbered.
It was also purportedly signed on October 17, 2015, which has raised eyebrows.
Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Patrick Chinamasa, were fruitless last week as he was not picking up calls.
He also did not respond to text messages.
It is believed that from the beginning, the commission had its work cut out as it had to fully exhaust each of the 14 terms of reference as provided in SI 80 of 2015.
In essence, the commission had to comb through data from more than 20 insurance firms, 15 brokers, self-administered pension funds, the public service pension fund, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) pension fund and other benefit schemes.
Also, when work began, there was a lot of resistance and reluctance from players in the industry. Justice Smith had to resort to subpoenaing companies such as Old Mutual, First Mutual, Comarton and Marsh.
Insurance firms were reportedly struggling to provide critical information to the commissioners, partly vindicating public complaints against them. After the inquiry, a report detailing the findings will be produced.
One of the commission’s major tasks is to establish the total value of pensions as at December 31, 20016 and as at March 31, 2009. Among other issues, the commission also seeks to establish the value of old generation pension funds and the newer generation pension funds as of December 31, 2016 and March 31, 2009.
The public claims pensions and insurance benefits were significantly undervalued when they were converted to US dollars in 2009, prompting the appointment of the commission.
Assisting Justice Smith are Dr Godfrey Kanyenze, Mr Anesu Daka, Mr Martin Tarusenga, Mr Brains Muchemwa, Mr Itai Chirume, Mrs Violet Mutandwa and Mr George Dikinya.
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