As part of the PPP/C Government’s promise to transform and improve services offered by public institutions, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, delivered National Insurance Scheme (NIS) pension booklets to residents of Fort Wellington, West Coast Berbice on Saturday.
This was not just any regular event. In fact, it proved to be quite significant as the finance minister, with the support of the NIS General Manager, Holly Greaves and other technical staffers, handed over the booklets to citizens who have been waiting for years to receive their contributions.
The distribution exercise was held at the NIS’, Fort Wellington office.
In his remarks, Dr. Singh recalled that in August, he and a team from NIS held an outreach at Fort Wellington to listen to the challenges citizens faced in receiving their benefits. Those concerns were investigated, the minister noted, with a significant number addressed.
“As the minister responsible for NIS, I initiated a series of outreaches in Regions Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten. The response has been phenomenal. Over 100 citizens turned out at each outreach and in some cases 200, and what we have found is that a number of the issues that are raised are issues that can be resolved on the spot and so this was done. Some required further investigation. I am very happy that we have gotten to a point where the numbers are perhaps 80 per cent issues resolved,” the senior minister iterated to the gathering.
Notwithstanding this, he recognised the challenges citizens face after contributing years of their life to the improvement of their country, only to be told that they would not be able to collect their pensions.
“There are people who have been waiting years to get their pension and that is not acceptable. While I would be eager to commend the NIS under the current board and the General Manager for resolving these issues, I would in the same breath say that they need to get to a point where these issues do not arise,” he expressed.
Speaking with the Department of Public Information (DPI), pensioners now in receipt of their booklets expressed their contentment over being able to collect their contributions. Janki Edwards said she had been waiting to receive her pension since 2013.
“My father told me that the minister was coming down in August month. He told me that the minister was going to Fort Wellington. I came in and I got through with the minister and they told me that they are going to help me, and here I am today, so I am happy with what I have,” the pensioner said.
Mohamed Hiyube Hoosain, a former worker of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) said that he applied for his pension 10 years ago, but was unsuccessful in collecting it due to poor record-keeping.
“I ran all about; I ran to town, come back here, go to Brickdam, Camp Street and I could not get the pension. I had given up hope, and I was almost going to get a lawyer. But I was so excited and happy when they called me to collect. I praise the minister; I praise the government and may God shower his blessings on all of them,” Hoosain expressed.
Shareeza Hiralall, a young woman collecting on behalf of her 67-year-old father, spoke of the challenges she and her father faced in collecting his pension booklet. Even after making all of his contributions, the records at NIS did not reflect this.
“He has been here at Fort Wellington numerous times, back and forth and to no avail. I was representing him and I was getting nowhere, so I decided to take this matter to Freedom House to speak with MP Jaffarally and that is when he took the matter up to the office. We came and we spoke to the minister, he promised and I can see that a promise has been fulfilled,” she said.
The finance minister called on employers to ensure they pay their employees’ contributions to NIS.
“It is a legal obligation, not a request,” he warned.
He also encouraged employees to periodically request statements of their contributions and also verify documents to ensure there are no missing contributions. Dr. Singh reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring persons receive what they have earned.