The quest to positively impact the lives of members of the Liberian workforce and their dependents through quality service-delivery has been at the heart of the operations of the National Social Security & Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) since its inception nearly four decades ago. This is evidenced by the many reforms initiated by the Corporation to improve its operational capacity.
Managed by an able management team headed by Mr. Dewitt vonBallmoos, the Corporation, emerging from the ashes of war, has made tremendous progress and impacted the lives of thousands of injured and retired Liberian workers and their dependents. To date, the Corporation is assiduously striving to deliver and expand sustainable social protection to future generations of Liberian workers, including the most vulnerable segments of the population.
Barely seven years ago, NASSCORP was in total shambles with loss of assets, obsolete laws, dwindling sources of contribution, backlog of benefit arrears, lack of effective leadership, misplaced staff, and unconducive work environment, among others. But with dedication and devotion to duty, the NASSCORP Management has streamlined, consolidated and turned the Corporation around, restoring public confidence thereby boosting contribution and raising staff morale and, in effect, enhancing productivity.
With almost seven years of intensive work, the Corporation has been, almost, completely revived. From an entity delinquent in paying benefits, NASSCORP has settled the backlog of claims, as far back as the 1990s, and made benefit payments, settling over US$10.3 million to more than 6,000 beneficiaries over the period.
Successful Investment Policy
In keeping with the 1975 Act establishing NASSCORP which empowers the Corporation to invest 25 per cent insurable earnings into profitable and realistic ventures, the Corporation over the years has moved away from being a passive investor and engaged in large scale investments that have generated additional capital to fill the program resource gaps. Cash flows from these investments are further leveraged to mobilize an additional funding for new investments. Major counties around the country have had a share of the investment package of the Corporation consistent with the need for diversification.
Barely two years upon assuming the mantle of authority, the management drafted and completed an investment policy and strategic document with a portfolio structured into short- and long-term investment that encompasses private equities, commercial enterprises, residential and commercial properties, loans, trade, finance and certificates of deposit. Since then and through the approval of the Board of Directors of NASSCORP, management has been vigorous in implementing provisions of the portfolio.
The investment program of the Corporation that was in tatters has grown to about US$23.24 million, with a diversity of assets that assures the sturdiness of the portfolio. The quality and performance of the portfolio thus ensures the solvency of the social security program, making it potent to meet its long-term benefit commitments. Manual operations have lost out to automated systems that have boosted efficiency, accuracy and authenticity.
Now, under the astute leadership of its Director General Dewitt von Ballmoos, the commitment to further improve the operations of NASSCORP and its preceding vision to re-make the economy and improve benefits are embedded in its core values of diversified programs that will aid its effectiveness.
As part of the portfolio, the Corporation is involved in the development of physical properties that were badly needed following the cessation of hostilities, when many major infrastructures in the country had been destroyed.
Among the many projects undertaken by NASSCORP over the period is the construction of a multi-purpose commercial complex at the ELWA junction, which represents the single largest infrastructure investment by the Corporation that is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of this year.
By 2009, the Corporation completed and furnished a 10-bedroom guest house project in Kakata, Margibi County, which consists of office spaces, conference room, restaurant and lobby, among others, and is serving as a major resort in that part of the country. The Corporation constructed and dedicated on March 18, 2011 in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, a US$2.45 million commercial and residential complex. Named the Dr. Abbas G. Kangar Plaza, the facility has already been leased by Buchanan Renewables for a period of 20 years with an initial payment of US$1.375 million for the first five years.
In furtherance of its investment portfolio, NASSCORP holds about 3,980,000 shares in the Eco Transnational Incorporated (ETI), the parent company of Ecobank, and has also acquired 125,000 shares in the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and US$500,000 common stock in the First International Bank-Liberia Limited (FIB). Given the rapid transformation, progress and performance of banking sector over the years, NASSCORP stands to reap appreciable dividends in the future.
The Corporation has also carried out direct interventions in the private sector, extending credit facilities to the Morris-American Rubber Company (MARCO) to acquire additional equipment along with working capital to expand their purchase and export of rubber, and, purchased US$1,000.000.00 debentures in CELLCOM. CELLCOM debentures have generated US$ 218,250.00 in interest income for the Corporation.
NASSCORP has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Lagos based sub-regional financial institution, the African Finance Corporation (AFC), paving the way for collaboration and possible co-financing of medium to large-scale infrastructure venture projects in sectors such as energy, hydrocarbon , transportation and telecommunication.
“It is imperative, given the long term nature of our liabilities (pension benefit payments), that we shift concentration of our portfolio towards long-term and medium-large scale investments to provide sustainable cash flows.” exerts NASSCORP’s new CFO, G. Bombo Bright. “To successfully carry out such investments, we need to collaborate with other international financial intermediaries with whom we can structure and leverage our current asset-base to mobilize long term capital.”
Since the commencement of the investment development program of NASSCORP, it has had triggered-up effect towards the overall improvement of the social security program of Liberia. The physical properties development on land acquired by the NASSCORP under lease agreements are providing income to the Corporation, while the millions of United States Dollars shares being held in various banking institutions are building up the reserves of the Corporation.
NASSCORP management is of the conviction that it is important to actualize the investment development program because by doing so, the future prospects of the program will be assured, long-term benefit payments will be serviced and support to other national development endeavors will be guaranteed.
Management also believes that in order to increase the investment income of the Corporation, it will have to explore more investment possibilities, especially with ongoing landed properties development.
The rapid growth in the investment portfolio is due to the far-sightedness of management in its efforts to solidify the operations of the Corporation. These investment initiatives are clear demonstration of NASSCORP’s commitment to improving the economy, providing the opportunities and delivering effective services for the overall growth and development of the country, especially the attainment of Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
“When this spate of investment continues, NASSCORP’s solvency will, no doubt, be assured and its reliability enhanced,” an executive of NASSCORP indicated.
Prudent managerial reforms are evidently the bedrock to sustainable and viable institutions with NASSCORP being no exception.
Over the period, dramatic changes have taken place with the wisdom of qualified and competent management team as well as the positioning of highly qualified and experienced technocrats competently steering the affairs of the Corporation.
“Sound plans and policies formulated and implemented by the management and staff have boosted morale within the entire workforce and restored the Corporation’s image that was eroded as a result of the civil conflict and its immediate aftermath, and reforms within the system have led to developments around the country that are contributing to socio-economic development,” said Dewitt von Ballmoos, NASSCORP’s Director General.
Under the current management team, employees have benefited from local and international trainings. The records system of employers, employees and beneficiaries was automated. An advanced Information Technology System has also been set up and the investment portfolio was also reinvigorated.
These measures have resulted in significant improvements, thus paving the way for NASSCORP to adequately meet its statutory obligation by efficiently and effectively awarding benefits. To date, the Corporation is experiencing tremendous growth and development in overall performance.
Cognizance of its role to assist in working for the achievement of Government’s objectives, especially the PRS, annunciated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration’s first six years which was also in line with the functions of NASSCORP, the management improved and modernized the process of benefit payment and continues to render assistance to the needy under its corporate social responsibility program. These programs have brought relief to thousands of beneficiaries and other citizens and residents in the country.
Automation of Operations
NASSCORP has introduced a modern computerized accounting system which is a valuable scheme that will eventually lead to the revision and possible enactment of major provisions in the original Act creating NASSCORP. In its success story, NASSCORP’s contribution records database system has been established to have easy access to much needed information as well as efficient and reliable access to employers and employees’ contribution records.
As a result of the system, the department has prepared and delivered statements of accounts to employees covered under the program. Accordingly, the reforms introduced by the management have contributed to the reduction of hardship faced by beneficiaries under the program. These efforts, undoubtedly, have been helping to ensure that the objective of the PRS is achieved to the fullest.
“Benefits provided under the employment inquiry and national pension schemes have been relevant in tackling poverty, restoring dignity and creating an enabling environment for impoverished employees of the nation, including their dependents,” said the NASSCORP Chief Executive.
Without discrimination, cash benefit, medical care, and other retirement packages have been received by the Corporation’s targeted group, the employees as well as their dependents. Besides, under its corporate social responsibility program, the Corporation continues to render assistance to old folks, orphanage homes, schools, community social projects and national endeavors.
In furtherance of its corporate social responsibility and mindful of its obligation, NASSCORP undertook the renovation of the Operating Theatre of the J.F.K. Medical Center and supplied surgical gowns and assorted accessories to the theater. This has enabled the center to provide services to citizens without the means of going abroad.
In concert with Government, NASSCORP also provided uniforms for and paid the tuition of disadvantaged adolescent girls attending various schools in and around Monrovia, and also provided safe drinking water to hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
“We will provide better incentives to all Liberians, and my vision is to improve the investment of NASSCORP to respond timely to our beneficiaries,” VonBallmoos stated.
These initiatives by NASSCORP have rekindled the hopes and aspirations of the people of Liberia as thousands are now dependent on NASSCORP for their livelihood. Moreover, the vigorous strides in the investment portfolio of the Corporation have provided employment opportunities for several persons around the country. In a bid to minimize destitution and create an environment for sustainable livelihood, NASSCORP has ensured that benefits disbursed under its two operational schemes (EIS/NPS) are current and prompt.
In 2007, the management introduced a direct bank payment service which was followed by the introduction of a biometric process in 2009 that automated the records of all beneficiaries. The biometric system was intended to complement the direct bank payment service, under which the Corporation has established account for each and every beneficiary at commercial banks into which NASSCORP deposits benefit amounts periodically.
In its care system, the NASSCORP management has underscored the need for employees of the Corporation to take the task of caring for the injured, aged and other disadvantaged persons covered under the program, noting that the rationale for which NASSCORP was established behooves every employee to execute this responsibility to the fullest in order to bring relief to thousands of people covered under the scheme.
“To achieve this responsibility, the management established a training division with a mandate to organize training sessions that will broaden employees’ knowledge and skills in several areas, including perennial care for insured persons,” a NASSCORP executive indicated. Through innovation, the sisterly relationship between NASSCORP and the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) of The Gambia has resulted in series of study tours of employees of the two social security institutions.
The collaboration commenced in 2007 when the management of NASSCORP facilitated the travel of 11 middle-level employees of the Corporation for a study tour of SSHFC and was reciprocated with a study tour of NASSCORP by a five-man SSHFC delegation in 2008.
The cardinal purpose of these exchanges was to upgrade the capacities of staffs of both institutions to meet the challenges which include registration procedure, contribution records management, claims processing, benefit payments, policies and regulations and the methods of implementation, among others.
Given the numerous gains made by the Corporation in recent years relative to its service-delivery, one can safely conjecture that there is no doubt that NASSCORP will continue to leap forward in the months and years ahead.