Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Dr John Ofori Tenkorang, has said his reforms at the state pension scheme since his appointment last year, saved SSNIT’s kitty GHS5.4million of a GHS7.3million travel budget allocation in 2017.
Dr Koranteng said on Tuesday that he has put in place a lot of measures to curb wastage of public funds at SSNIT, two of those being the scrapping of certain travel benefits for top executives and the institution of a policy that bars top executives, including himself, from flying first class.
He revealed on Thursday, 19 April in an interview with Nathan Quao on Accra-based Citi FM that high-ranking executives of SSNIT were enjoying a benefit called Travel Days Per Diem Allowance which entitled them to receive payments for merely being inside an airplane.
“I found out that there was this thing called Travel Days Per Diem Allowance; what that was, was that by just getting into the plane from Accra to London, you get paid as if you stayed away for a day or even for two days. In the case of, for example, D-G and certain executives, [they were paid] just for getting in the air. So, one day I went to [an] executive committee [meeting] and I said: ‘Guys, this per diem that we pay for travel days, what is for? [You are paid] just to be on the plane, you’re not paying for any hotel, you are not paying for any meal … and, so, all executives got around the table and agreed that you should be paid for the nights that you are staying there when you’re paying hotels and you’re paying for meals, so, we cut that,” he said.
“… The first time I went there when I was being read my benefits, I was told that as part of my conditions of service, the Director-General flies first class for all his business travels. I declined. I said I will fly business [class] because a first-class ticket is probably twice the price of a business-class [ticket]. And, I actually made them go run the trips that I’m scheduled to make in first class and run the same fares in business class and see the difference and the difference was substantial, so, I opted to do that but that’s a signal to say that cost-cutting is here, so, we should all tighten our belt.
“We revised our travel policy. I saw that there was a lot of travel going on, especially overseas travels for conferences, training sessions …
“As part of the measures that we put in place in terms of regulating travel, there had been an amount of GHS7.3million budgeted for travel and accommodation, we went through the whole year and spent only GHS1.9million. Now I revised to business class, of course I didn’t want to push everybody down because people thought that was what I was going to do but we didn’t do that. We made a policy that for travels [which are] less than five hours, all of us, including myself, we all fly economy class because that’s what I’m used to when I used to work abroad. If it is a short haul travel, you fly economy, all of us, including the D-G,” he said.
Apart from revising the travel benefits for the executives, Dr Tenkorang also said he did away with Sitting Allowances paid top executives after Board meetings.
“I found out that executive directors were being paid for attending their own board meetings. I mean I’m used to Sitting Allowances being paid to non-executive directors, so, I said: ‘No, I can’t do that’; so, we cut that. So, that was a signal”, he added.
To ensure productivity and discourage lateness and idleness, Dr Koranteng said he paid surprise visits to some branches of the pension scheme. “There was an issue as to whether the people that work for SSNIT are truly working or not because you go to offices and people are not showing up till 10 O’clock, 9 O’clock; they leave early, so, myself and my DD-G decided that we will go to a branch unannounced and will show up there, book our plane tickets, we won’t tell anybody that we are coming and when I show up and I see that you are not there, we will sanction you”.
Currently, Dr Tenkorang’s immediate predecessor, Ernest Thompson, and three other officers have been indicted and charged for causing financial loss to the state in connection with the procurement of an IT Software costing $72 million.
The three others are Juliet Hasana Krama, CEO of Perfect Business System; John Hagan Mensah, former OBS Project Manager at SSNIT and Caleb Afaglo, ex-General Manager of Management Information Systems at SSNIT.
The Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) commenced probing SSNIT in August 2017 after it emerged that the Trust had injected $72 million on the procurement and installation of a software and other hardware systems known as the Operational Business Suite (OBS) to digitise SSNIT’s operations.
The project included the installation of a software to ensure that its headquarters receives data directly from all of its offices.