By Omar Bah

The Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation has sent over one hundred staff members on temporary paid leave as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
SSHFC has also closed its Bijilo tribunal, all their guests houses across the country and a mosque built at their headquarters.

Speaking to The Standard on the development, the SSHFC managing director, Muhamadou Manjang said they have identified and sent on leave those at most risk and those engaged in activities that are not critical in the current environment.

“All of them were asked to take their leave so that we will decongest the office and allow social distancing. We have also set up a crisis management team last week to respond to the unfolding crisis of Covid-19,” he added.

He continued: “Whatever decision we take it is in line with the WHO and Ministry of Health advice. Our effort is to complement whatever government is doing to contain this virus because we are concern with the wellbeing and health of our staff and members, particularly pensioners who are identified as one of the most vulnerable”.
He said they have also taken measures to ensure the offices and furniture are disinfected regularly.

“We are also trying to get the thermometer from either The Gambia or Dakar and get medical experts to train our staff on how to use it for early detections”.
Anticipating the possibility of a total lockdown, Manjang said they have provided their staff with financial assistance in a form of loan to allow them to buy food stuff and goods in case of a lockdown.

“Our Corporate Affairs Department are consulting with some money transfer agents in the market to see if there are possibilities for us to use them as alternative avenues for paying our pensioners if we are to undergo a lockdown,” he said.

He said the SSHFC Board has approved for the pensioners to be given loans to take care of their needs during “this critical time”.
The loan is equivalent to three times their monthly pensions and payable over a period of twelve months.

“We are also discussing with GTSC to see how best we can contract their service to transport our staff to and from work in order to ensure that social distancing is not only observed in the offices but also as they travel to work,” he said.

On the potential financial risk, Manjang said although they are planning ahead for the possible financial implications, they are in a very strong financial position. “We may not realise our expected profit but we can weather this storm. We have not quantified what exactly the financial impact will be but it is nothing that we cannot handle”.

Fabuka Njaay, the Director of Corporate Affairs at SSHFC said as part of the vigorous messaging on the preventative methods of Covid-19, they have opened a WhatsApp group where they disseminate information to all their staff.

“Additionally, screensavers, posters, email alerts and memos, regular staff briefings etc. are regularly utilised to disseminate relevant information to stakeholders on management advice and the status quo,” he stated.

“Even payment to our pensioners is now done outside in an open space with canopy and seats just to create that social distancing as instructed by the WHO and the Ministry of Health,” he said.

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