By Victor Angula /
The Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) will not be knocked out by the Covid-19 pandemic although the Fund is paying out more money to its beneficiaries as a result of Covid-19 related deaths.
Namibia is said to be one of the countries receiving hard knocks, uppercuts, left hooks, and straight jabs from the Covid-19 pandemic. But GIPF CEO Mr David Nuyoma tells Omutumwa that his company is doing well in taking the blows, and is ready to go the whole hog until the end of the pandemic.
Omutumwa: How has the operations of GIPF been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, as a result of the “work from home” practice and the “online-engagement” with clients since most clients of GIPF have no or limited access to internet?
Nuyoma (GIPF): Like many other organisations, the Fund has had to rapidly adjust to cater for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the Fund had already began preparing its Business Continuity Plans before the first initial lockdown and as a result, was able to continue providing all its services to its esteemed clients without any notable delays or interruptions.
In view of the COVID 19 Pandemic, the Fund has advised members not to visit offices and to access services via email, telephone or through online platforms. The Fund has continued to welcome and assist clients who do not have access to these platforms and proceed to visit its Head Office or any of its 11 regional offices.
Omutumwa: Covid-19 is a crisis; and a crisis calls for constant communication and lots of engagement with stakeholders. Yet GIPF has not been engaging in visible communication efforts with its clientele. Why is this so?
Nuyoma: GIPF has made immense effort to engage with members through mediums such as social media, print and broadcast media in the absence of member education roadshows and trade fairs due to COVID-19.
The Fund has made the following efforts: • Targeted member education engagements with several ministries; this includes face-to-face interactions within regulations and also virtual meetings,
- Radio live reads on the different vernacular stations on NBC regarding the suspension of biometric due to Covid-19 and reassuring members that their benefits will still be paid timeously,
- Direct messaging to members regarding accessing services remotely, the suspension of verification and reducing the influx of clients at the GIPF offices nationwide due to COVID,
- Weekly press releases, opinion pieces and thought leadership articles have been disseminated to all media houses for further publication,
- The Fund introduced a quarterly newsletter which consists of thought leadership articles, pension advice and the latest information pertaining to the Fund. The next edition is due end of August 2021,
- Additionally, the Fund is set to embark on an extensive member education radio campaign on different vernacular radio stations on NBC to discuss Funeral claims and Death benefit claims due to the increase in these claims due to the pandemic.
We will further discuss what GIPF deems as emergency services that warrant members to come physically into GIPF offices nationwide and what their documentation requirements are when doing so. Lastly, they will elaborate on the available services members can access remotely via the member portable and telephonically.
Internally, the Fund continues to engage internal stakeholders (our employees) through the monthly internal newsletter, CEO briefings, Policy Workshops, Management/employee meetings, wellness sessions which amongst others includes Covid-19 awareness sessions, information sessions with resident medical doctors, grief and trauma counselling.
Besides the above-mentioned efforts, the Fund is finalizing member education initiatives for broadcast and planning to increasing radio member education radio sessions in the different vernacular stations on radio.
Omutumwa: The high-rise in deaths due to Covid-19 means that lots of deaths are from the “GIPF family”. How has the Fund been affected by this?
Nuyoma: The Fund has experienced an increased number of funeral claims from its members and their beneficiaries. The Fund continues to empathise with all its members and continues to serve them in a manner that is right, fast and humane and by processing all claims in a speedily fashion and in a manner that is innovative, professional and respectful.
The Fund has also begun allowing members to submit their funeral claims via e-mail in order to allow them to do so whilst self-isolating and to avoid any unnecessary risks. We have resolved to suspend all annuitant biometric verification in order to ensure that the Fund does not put any of our esteemed members at risk.
Omutumwa: What notable strategies are in place to mitigate the Covid-19 impact on the Fund, especially when considering the fact that more deaths of members leads to more cash bleeding from the Fund in benefit to the annuitants/dependants?
Nuyoma: The Fund has ensured that it will continually remain in a position to honour all claims made by its members and annuitants. GIPF has a long-term investment strategy that has led to the Fund growing significantly, even during the times of the COVID pandemic.
As a result, the Fund remains in a healthy position to expediently honour all claims without the increased claims placing an undue burden on the Fund. In other words, although the Fund has to pay out more due to the increase in claims, the Fund has also grown at a commensurate rate to be able to honour those claims.
Omutumwa: The Covid-19 virus is known for its innovativeness and ability to mutate into variants at a fast rate in order to be ahead of medical breakthroughs and therefore survive. On the other hand GIPF is not so well known to engage in any serious innovative approaches in its operations. In the circumstances, and the threats posed by Covid-19 in the foreseeable future, how confident can the nation be that the Fund will not run dry and be liquidated by Covid-19?
Nuyoma: It is not true that the GIPF is not known for being innovative. The GIPF’s Investment Strategy is specifically formulated and designed to be robust and long term in order to withstand external challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ensure its long-term sustainability. This is proven by the Fund’s ability to record healthy growth in the midst of this pandemic.