A focus area for the National Superannuation Fund (Nasfund) is to encourage voluntary contributions under its Eda Supa product through partnerships with farmers in the agriculture sector and other small medium enterprise (SME) activities. Chief executive officer Ian Tarutia said the Eda Supa was a voluntary savings scheme outside of the mandatory compulsory savings scheme. Tarutia said there are over 35,000 voluntary contributors valued at over K61 million. Business reporter DALE LUMA writes:
Partnerships and member engagements
According to Nasfund’s 2021 annual report, Coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions were less stringent last year which enabled the fund to ramp up engagements with members and employers.
A focus area was encouraging voluntary contributions under its Eda Supa product, especially farmers in the agricultural sector and SME activities.
Targeted economic sector engagements geared for Eda Supa growth were undertaken in the Mamose region focusing on East Sepik, Madang and Morobe provinces.
With the increased commercial activities in the East Sepik informal sector and a perceived growth in membership, Nasfund opened a service centre in Maprik to support its Wewak office.
On the back of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with the East Sepik government in 2020, it signed another MOU with the Morobe government in mid-2021.
The intent is to promote voluntary savings among the informal and SME sector in Morobe as well as identify investment opportunities on the pending Wafi-Golpu gold mine.
The fund will continue to engage with various provincial governments and key economic sector agencies to enable the promotion of savings among rural people engaged in some form of economic activities and to explore investment opportunities.
To assist former employees of Barrick Limited and associated contractors due to the shutdown of the Porgera mine in 2020, Nasfund opened a service centre in partnership with the Porgera Chamber of Commerce and Industry to cater for the influx in member queries.
During the year, Nasfund received Section 85 notices from two employers, University of Technology and International Food Corporation to transfer to another superannuation fund.
The fund, however, was able to successfully convince staff to remain and today it continues maintaining services to members from these two entities.
It also continues to push its branch upgrade programme.
Apart from a new service centre in Maprik, branch upgrades were done for Kimbe, Goroka and Mt Hagen.
It will continue upgrading branches in other provincial centres to enhance the customer experience for members and provide a cleaner modern work environment for staff.
Branch traffic numbers peaked at 340,000 for the year in the high traffic branches of Boroko, Lae, Waigani, Mt Hagen, Kokopo, Madang and Goroka.
The fund received 415,000 calls through its call centre with an 81 per cent answering rate.
The fund also promoted its non-contact touch points via its online member portal, call centre toll free numbers and mobile phone balance enquiry facilities as convenient options for members who were unable to visit its branches in person.
This has been widely received by members. At this time, superannuation coverage for our citizens is less than 10 per cent of the country’s population.
This low coverage rate means 90 per cent of the people are without financial protection at retirement after active working life.
This is an opportunity for the fund to grow membership.
Nasfund continues to implement actions and programmes that encourages new member registration throughout the country either on a voluntary basis or as a compulsory contributor.
The fund recently signed an agreement with the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) for financial literacy training to be provided to small businesses in the fisheries sector.
The total savings contributions to Nasfund from the fisheries sector is valued over K61 million, Tarutia said
Nasfund has 27 organisations in the fisheries sector contributing to it.
“Most of them are primarily in the manufacturing side,” Tarutia said.
“We have big organisations that are foreign owned but here employing people.”
“This is only a small segment of the sector and the arrangement and the opportunities that working with NFA will provide, the fund hopes will expand the coverage to more than just its people working in the canning and loining factories but out in the villages who are able to sell directly to a supplier and offshore.”
Tarutia said the fund could help people in terms of how they were involved in direct activities and how they made and saved through the products such as Eda savings.
NFA has provided close to K50 million to small fisheries business but lack of financial literacy has hampered their growth, according to acting managing director Justin Ilakini.
There are more than 20 registered fisheries cooperative societies but most lack financial skills and a rollout of financial literacy training was crucial. The training provided will empower small fisheries businesses to learn the importance of savings and reinvestment.