JUSTICE Minister Given Lubinda says retirees will finally start receiving their benefits staring Monday, June 8, 2020.

Speaking during a press briefing, Thursday, Lubinda said government owed the retirees over K500 million.

“I have consistently said that government is concerned with the plight of its former workers. President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has always been concerned about the plight of those citizens who diligently served their mother country who have been made to wait for such a long time to receive their due retirement benefits. Today, I wish to inform you that the government, through the compensation and awards committee, has over this period been paying money due to retirees over a period of time with a view to settling the debts owed to former public employees. To this end, the government has been undertaking a verification exercise of the retirees who are eligible for payment and their legal representatives. This process has been going in for years preceding 2019 without success. Put in other words, government working with representatives over the years has over the years from 1999 to 2019, been trying to verify the list of the retirees without success,” Lubinda said.

“As a result of this successful verification, I met all the legal representatives of the retirees in February of this year I met them with a view of ensuring that we resolve the matter of reconciliation conclusively. I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Justice has agreed with representatives, of which settlement agreements have since been signed. My colleagues from the Ministry of Finance have confirmed that disbursement will now start. Payments to our retirees who have been waiting for more than 20 years will now commence. Payments will commence on Monday 8th of June this year. I wish to advise that the total debt owed to a verified number of 12,458 retirees is K508,153,591 and this covers all cases involving retirees. The approximate number of the savings from the negotiation process which I spoke about is K54,959,952 that is the amount of money that has been saved out of the negations.”

Lubinda said during the verification exercise, 4, 327 people were found on more than one list.

“As all of you will be aware, it is not possible for us to pay the retirees unless we verify their names. My Ministry invited all the representatives of with a view to disbursing funds directed by His Excellency the President Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia. When instructed that money be allocated by the Ministry of Finance for the purposes of settling arrears owed to retirees, this was with the intention of cushioning the retirees particularly also in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but also to reduce the arrears owed to retirees who are claimants under the Compensation and Awards Fund administered by this Ministry. Following that, the meeting was held with all the representatives who were requested to submit the schedules of the retirees they represent to my ministry for scrutiny and verification,” he said.

“Initially, some of the schedules submitted contained duplication of names. Government expressed concern over this occurrence as it wanted to avoid double payments to the retirees. I am pleased to inform you that in many cases this has now been resolved. The number of names found during the verification in total were 4,327 these were names that appeared on several lists. As you can imagine, hadn’t government undertaken the verification exercise, it would have meant that 4,327 people would have been paid some twice, some even three times and that would have obviously caused a huge loss on the part of government.”

Lubinda said a committee had been constituted negotiate payment terms with the representatives of retirees.

“Over the last two weeks, a committee of stakeholders nominated from the Anti- Corruption Commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission the Human Rights Commission officers from Ministry of Finance and officers from my Ministry were constituted in a committee with a mandate of engaging the representatives of the retirees so as to negotiate payment terms on the outstanding amounts owed to them. That money is not coming from the retirement benefits. Rather, we are making saving from other costs such as interests. Every former employee will be paid exactly what is due to them plus some interests. The balance that will remain outstanding to be paid to the retirees after the initial payment is K308,908,933,” said Lubinda.

“I am pleased to announce that the verification exercise has resulted in government making savings from the negotiated settlements which have also helped government to commit more funds to cater for other retirees’ cases that were targeted by this exercise. I also wish to acknowledge that not all cases have been settled in full as the allocated amount is still below what government owes. However, the disbursement that will be made will significantly reduce the total indebtedness of our retirees.”