Ending the Ordeal Faced by Beninese Civil Servants Seeking Retirement
Reforms undertaken by Benin allow government employees to claim their rights without delay.
Until recently, retiring was a nightmare for most Beninese civil servants, due to the arduous obstacle course required to promptly obtain a pension card.
“I retired in 2016. I immediately began the process to obtain my pension account, which I only got this year in 2019. I thank heavens that I stayed alive till now,” explains Georgette Saizonou, Director of the Ladji public primary school in Cotonou.
Georgette’s ordeal is one that about a thousand civil servants face on average each year at the end of their careers, out of a staff of about 70,000 serving employees. With no pension, the most vulnerable struggled to meet their basic needs, especially access to health care.
“The retirement pension is just a portion of an active employee’s salary. But, even when you’re already working, you live badly because the salary isn’t enough to meet basic social needs. Retiring with no guarantee that they will immediately receive this reduced salary… is quite nerve-wracking for civil servants at the end of their careers,” explains Thomas Houèdokoho, retired statistics engineer.
Even though the Beninese civil code stipulates that retiring civil servants should have their pension account the day they leave, many malfunctions and delays occur when processing files. Employees must gather together about 30 official documents, including some dating back to the start of their careers, a process that is sometimes an uphill struggle. Once submitted, the completed file undergoes long and complex processing.
“After three years of tribulations, I ended up getting my pension account. …Some friends who were in the same situation as me were evicted from their rental housing,” confides Alassane, a government vehicle driver who could endure these hard times because of his wife’s small business.
Thanks to the Support Project for Administrative and Institutional Reform and Public Service Reform (Projet d’Appui à la Réforme Administrative et Institutionnelle et à la Réforme de la Fonction publique in French), supported by UNDP, and the combined efforts of the Ministry of Labour and Public Service and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, a pension card is now delivered in record time. Processing takes between several weeks and about one month. Instead of the 27 previously required official documents, applicants must now provide just three: photos, bank account information and a form to fill out to indicate where they would like to collect their pension.
“Active workers…will no longer perceive retirement as a foreboding threat,” says Amélie Awassi, a retirement financial services manager.
The project is also tackling digitizing the career management process and implementing an integrated human resources management system that can permanently eliminate the backlog of files. Two stakeholder workshops held in 2018 helped set up a one-stop counter to complete anything related to administrative and financial procedures and on-the-spot collection of initials, visas, and signatures of the various actors in the file processing chain.
In 2018, actions were taken on over 5000 of the 6614 pending files, and 4445 new enrollees received their identification numbers in record time.
Launched in 2014, the project is about to be extended until 2023.
Text and photos by Paul Douakoutche & Elsie Assogba / UNDP Benin