Cumulative pension contribution arrears have risen to K26.9 billion, a situation that has forced the Reserve Bank Malawi (RBM) to issue a 21- day ultimatum for firms to settle their dues or face administrative penalties.
On Monday, officials from the central bank in the company of fiscal police officers inspected some companies with outstanding arrears in Blantyre with a fresh warning that they would face legal consequences.
Figures presented show that there are about 999 out of 3,073 institutions nationwide that are failing to remit pension contributions despite deducting from their employees.
RBM Chief Examiner of Non Prudential Compliance Pension and Insurance Supervision Paul Nyirenda said failure to settle the arrears has repercussions on the economy.
“When contributions are remitted to a pension fund, the contributions are invested and the investments are there also for economic growth; you find that some of the infrastructure development is achieved because you have pension funds investing in these projects. So if the employer is holding on to funds it means, in terms of the economy at large, the economy also suffers,” he said
Nyirenda said laxity by some employers to remit pension deductions entails members are losing out on returns.
Last year, RBM named and shamed companies that had arrears in pension contributions as one way of pushing them to remit their contributions.
Speaking in an interview Life and Pensions Association President Stain Singo said that when employers do not contribute to pension funds regularly it leads to decreased returns for the employees.
“The members are disadvantaged because the employers were not paying the contributions and therefore the contributions were not earning interest, and the accumulated amount is lower than could have been the case if the employer was remitting regularly,” Singo said.
Many companies and employers have often cited the Covid pandemic as the reason for failure to settle these arrears.
However, Nico Pension General Manager Gerald Chima quashed the notion saying it would only be valid for players of specified sectors of the economy as arrears for some firms dates back to the pre-Covid era.
Pension funds perform important economic functions such as mobilising and managing savings, providing income stability, making labour markets more efficient and providing exposure to systemic risk in financial markets.