National, News

Parliament passes Social Insurance Bill

By Bida Elly David


South Sudan’s National Assembly yesterday passed the Social Insurance Fund Bill 2023 in its third and final reading stages.

Key focus of the bill is to regulate the private sector, regarding social insurance of employees upon risks or retirement, as demanded by the government.

In the report presented by the chairperson of the specialized committee for labor Angelina Samuel Nyawela, the fund shall be run by a board of trustees.

She said the committee, in their amendment bill, awarded a 3-year term of office to the board of trustees, subject to effective renewal.

Angelina stated that the board will be led by a director general, who will also serve as the board’s secretary general.

The committee noted that the board shall serve the purpose of ensuring the eligibility of risk survivors, the distribution of pensions, suspensions, and fighting for employees deprived of their benefits by the private sector.

However, the lawmakers, upon listening to the report, observed that the office time frame for the board was limited.

They agreed that the office should run for 4 years to enable the board to have enough duration for planning and other undertakings.

On the name of the document, the lawmakers disagreed with the report naming the bill as the National Social Insurance Bill, suggesting that it should be the South Sudan Social Insurance Bill.

Rebecca Joshua Okwachi, the SPLM chief whip, noted concerns about problems facing employees in the private sector with regards to health insurance.

She said the bill should clearly address cases of misappropriation where employees are deprived of health insurance.

She stressed that it is every employee’s right, whether an alien or a citizen working in the private sector across the country, to be insured, whether health-wise or upon retirement.

Peter Gathkuoth, an MP representing Uror County in Jonglei State, warned the board of inaccurate deductions of employees’ salaries by the private sector in the name of personal income tax to the government.

He said some deducted percentages don’t rhyme with the actual percentage the government charges against any employee.

“It is good for the law not to be silent but to define it widely. The calculation of employees’ total income or salaries should be very clear in the law,” he said.

Hon. Peter noted that some countries charge 11% of personal income tax on employees’ salaries based on the labor law, apart from percentages deducted for future benefits.

He also said age retirement in both the public and private sectors should be one of the elements that the law should address to enable aged staff to enjoy their fruits of labor.

He suggested that the retirement age for South Sudan should be limited to 60 years by law, not 65 years.

However, Jemma Nunu Kumba, the speaker of the assembly, disagreed with Hon. Peter, saying that the global retirement age is 65 and noting that it can’t be reverted.

“The retirement age of South Sudan is 65. This is based on general practice in the region and other parts of the world; the retirement age is 65,” she overruled.

Nunu noted that the only problem is that people fear leaving offices after exceeding their age limit in the public sector.

She said the solution to sending the retirees home is when their pension is due.

“We fear leaving offices when we need to retire, but we also let the pension scheme be put in place so that we leave offices for the younger ones,” she hinted.

Never the less, the lawmakers also observed that the bill only recognized maternity leave for pregnant women, suggesting the need for the inclusion of paternity leave for men.

The national insurance bill 2023 was initially discussed by the parliament in August in its first and second readings and later referred to the committee for scrutiny.

It has finally been passed through the third and final reading stages with amendments and recommendations.

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