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Friday, July 27, 2012

Pension debate reaches House

Jenister Mhagama

Members of Parliament yesterday expressed their fury on the amendments made to the Social Security Laws (Amendments) Bill, 2012 in which members of various pension funds will not be allowed to claim their contributions until they reach retirement age.
The law whose amendments were made in April this year also bars members of the social schemes from pulling out from the funds even when they lose their jobs under whatever circumstances.
Though the anger has emerged approximately three months after the amendments were carried out, when the MPs were debating them in April this year apparently none of them noticed the shortcomings in the Bill.
The government says the Social Security Laws (Amendments) Bill, 2012 amendments were made in order to harmonise various Acts that established the country’s social schemes and the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA) establishment legislation.
Such feelings prompted Kangi Lugora (Mwibara, CCM) to blame fellow MPs for not being careful when debating Bills tabled in Parliament by the government.
“The workers are now complaining about the Act legislated by us. This shows that we, MPs do not take care in scrutinising the Bills tabled in this Parliament,” said the fiery MP.
But, the Chairperson Jenister Mhagama responding to Lugora’s observations said there was nothing wrong with the House reviewing or repealing a law passed by the same Parliament a few months or days ago.
“Our laws are not holy scripts. If there is anything that embraces the national interest, this Parliament cannot be deterred by any institution from discussing it,’’ Mhagama said amid applause.
It was Seleman Jafu (Kisarawe, CCM) who spilled the beans after he judiciously took advantage of the Parliamentary Standing Order 47 (1) - (111) that gives any lawmaker the opportunity ask the Speaker to temporarily halt activities planned in the Order Paper so that the House could discuss an emergency issue.
Jafu told the House that, bearing in mind that the Social Security Laws Act, 2012 amendments prevent employees from claiming their terminal benefits before they retire, it was imperative for the Parliament to discuss the matter to rectify the situation.
“By discussing this matter the Parliament would not only be defending the people but also we, MPs ourselves, who are members to these pension funds,” he said.
Ruling on the matter, Mhagama asked Jafu to table a motion with clarity by pointing out matters that he wanted to be resolved by the House in Parliament yesterday afternoon.
However, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Standing Orders, met briefly yesterday immediately after adjourning the morning session under Speaker Anne Makinda, to look for a way of handling the Jafu’s hot motion.
The chairperson of the parliament, Jenister Mhagama said that the committee instructed Jafu to rewrite his motion and present it to the Office of the Speaker for consideration.
She said after that the motion will be handled by the respective parliamentary committee which will in turn meet and gather views from stakeholders for the purpose of advising the Speaker on the measures to be taken regarding the laws guiding the pension funds which has fueled crisis among the members of the funds.
In Dar es Salaam, the SSRA yesterday said that it is preparing guidelines to enable members and stakeholders in the social security benefits sector to get their benefits according to the nature of their work.
The SSRA move comes amid complaints by members and stakeholders barred from withdrawing their benefits upon quitting their jobs and on retirement before attaining 55 years for voluntary retirement or 60 for a compulsory one.
Speaking to The Guardian in her office yesterday SSRA head of public relations and promotions, Sarah Kibonde said the agency was preparing principles and guidelines on benefits with the aim of improving the welfare of members.

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