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Preceding the Pension Reform Act 2004, which established the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), Pension Administration in Nigeria was fraught with multifarious challenges. The resultant effect of these inefficiencies was lack of accountability and transparency, amidst weak administrative structures.
However, sixteen years since the advent of the CPS, the new system appears to have stayed the course, when viewed within the context of the pitfalls that characterized the pension schemes prior to the Pension reform. With apprehension about safety of pension funds at the inception of the CPS, pundits are pleasantly surprised at the relative stability attained, as funds under the CPS continue to soar. On this page today, we examine some of the key safeguards of the CPS that have ensured the safety of pension funds.
Ring Fencing of Pension Assets through the separation of Custody (PFC) and Management (PFA) functions
The Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) manages the pension funds without having direct access to the funds, as custody is vested in a separate entity, the Pension Fund Custodian (PFC). In effect, while the PFA makes day to day investment decisions, in line with the Investment Regulations issued by the National Pension Commission (PenCom), it is the responsibility of the PFC to effect payments for the investment and receive any dividends or profits therefrom, on behalf of the PFA, while PenCom ensures that both parties adhere strictly to regulations governing the pension funds.
Indeed, the cardinal principle of separation of custody from management and supervision has resulted in a pension scheme with a sound internal mechanism for transparency and accountability. The ring fencing of pension assets has resulted in the consistent growth in a large pool of pension assets.
Daily Monitoring of Pension Fund Investments
PenCom requires all PFAs to submit daily valuation reports on the pension fund investments. These reports provide the details and value of all investments made with the pension funds as at the end of each day. The implication is that PenCom is able to ensure that investments are in accordance with the Investment Regulations and could identify any infractions immediately for corrective action. In effect therefore, the safety of the pension funds is monitored by PenCom at all times.
Segregation of Pension Funds from the Assets of Pension Operators
There is a complete separation between the pension funds and the assets of pension operators. This means that an operator is not allowed to combine its own company funds with the pension funds, which are held in exclusive accounts, kept in safe custody by the PFC. In effect therefore, a pension operator’s insolvency will not impact negatively on the pension funds. Indeed, where an operator is incapacitated by capital inadequacy for instance, the pension funds will simply be transferred to another solvent operator, under the director of PenCom. This segregation of pension funds has further assured the transparency of the CPS.
Strict regulation on Investment of Pension Funds
The Investment of pension funds by PFAs are strictly regulated by the Investment Regulation, issued by PenCom. The Regulation prescribes allowable investment outlets and sets upper limits in percentages of funds that can be invested. This ensures that risks are properly managed in order to ensure safety of the funds. The PFA’s exclusive responsibility for investment decisions is only limited by compliance to the provisions of the Regulation.
Prohibition of Applying Pension Funds as Loans or as Collateral for Loans
The Pension funds are secured for the sole purpose of providing retirement and terminal benefits for the RSA holders. Consequently, pension funds are prohibited from being given out as loans or applied as collateral for loans. This has prevented the depletion of pension funds through non-performing loans taken by the RSA holder or the PFA granting a direct loan to a third party.
Strict Licensing Requirements
The Pension Reform Act 2014 prescribes a strict licencing regime to operate as a PFA or PFC. This includes possessing the professional capacity to manage pension funds, an undertaking not to engage in any other business except that of management of pension funds. In addition, such applicants must satisfy that they have never managed or administrated any fund that has been distress prior to the application.
Effectiveness of the CPS Safeguards
While the foregoing safeguards are not exhaustive, their effectiveness is best represented by the consistent accumulation of pension assets. Which stood at N12.34 trillion as at the first quarter of 2021. Furthermore, 9.33 million RSA holders have been registered under the CPS since inception. However, it should be noted that these safeguards have been largely effective due to the strong regulatory and supervisory oversight by PenCom.