Happiness Zengeni and Tinashe Makichi, Harare Bureau
The National Social Security Authority chairman, Robin Vela, has said the institution’s board and management is willing to match the same level of performance standards and scrutiny on its operations as it has demanded from investee companies and organisations falling under its regulatory authority.
He said the board and management had the expertise and right conviction to carry out its mandate which will see the authority driving for the adoption of the right standards.
“As the NSSA board we are willing to match any type of scrutiny in any case that the situation arises. We are open to any type of scrutiny as a board and in case something comes up with issues we are willing to listen,” said Mr Vela.
What Mr Vela said contrary to what was witnessed at the authority’s head office yesterday where people including journalists from this publication were trapped in an elevator on the 11th floor of the NSSA headquarters in Harare. Rescue was only provided 40 minutes later from the time of entrapment. The journalists had gone there for a Press conference called for by Mr Vela. Part of NSSA’s mandate entails enforcement and inspection of health and safety facilities in organisations across the country. Inspection of elevator fitness is part of NSSA’s responsibilities.
Reports say 57 percent of elevators in buildings around the country inspected by NSSA are not working, amid growing fears by members of the public in using elevators to go up high-rise buildings.
Meanwhile, NSSA is yet to fully implement its new strategic thrust which places more emphasis on developmental investments that guarantee meaningful returns to contributors and pensioners. In the past, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said equities would no longer be a priority but the authority should build a developmental portfolio, which includes infrastructure, housing, medical support and agriculture.
However, Mr Vela, in response to the question that NSSA was moving more towards an investment holding authority, said that changing the strategic thrust of an organisation was not an overnight thing.
“In fact we have extended our focus. What we have said is that where we do not have ability, we will hold shares. But the reality is that NSSA will take long to change . . . we are happy, however, that we have introduced transparency and have managed to increase benefits.”
Concerns have been raised at the role that Mr Vela, who has been in office for 20 months, is said to play at the authority, amid reports that he was taking up the role of executive chairman, going against the dictates of good corporate governance. Most insiders from NSSA say that the general manager’s post held by Mrs Elizabeth Chitiga is ceremonial as all issues to do with operations and instructions about investments are made by the chairman.
Recently, Minister of Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Obert Mpofu while announcing the appointment of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Board expressed his concerns on dominant chairmen, telling Richard Wilde (the ZIA chairman) that “it was worrisome that most board chairs in parastatals had become dominant, meddling into day-to-day operations of the company while also making announcements which are supposed to be made by management. We don’t want such a scenario at ZIA.”