-numerous cases dealt with on the spot
SENIOR Minister with Responsibility for Finance in the Office of the President, Dr. Ashni Singh, continued his outreach to the Ancient County of Berbice, on Sunday, when he met with scores of persons to address issues concerning the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). The two-day visit commenced on Saturday at the University of Guyana’s Tain Campus to cater for residents in the Central Corentyne area and continued the following day at the NIS Corriverton office for citizens on the Upper Corentyne.
The minister will return to Berbice on Wednesday where he will meet residents at the Regional Democratic Office (RDC) in New Amsterdam.
Speaking with the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday, Dr. Singh explained that the outreaches are a part of the government’s broader effort to improve the quality of service provided by public institutions and to ensure they are more citizen-friendly and more accessible to the people they are expected to serve.
Noting that NIS issues oftentimes dominate government outreaches, he said that after taking office last year, there were some 14,000 cases that were pending at the NIS that had to be addressed immediately. The institution managed to reduce this figure to 3000, he said.
“We are hoping to address the stock of issues that we inherited. When we came into government and a new board was appointed there was a stock of about 14,000 pending claims. At the first meeting I had, I instructed the board to immediately work to reduce all of these pending issues and we were able to get it to 3000 which is still a lot, but much less than before. So, essentially we have addressed and concluded 11,000 pending matters. There were lots of issues about late processing of life certificates…there was a stock of 3000 received and processed [and] we have now eliminated that to zero because we want people to get their pension on time,” the senior minister told the Guyana Chronicle.
He said despite the progress made, there are still many more issues to be addressed.
According to him, the aim is to get to a point where the NIS can clear out the entire inherited stock of pending matters and be seen as an institution that is friendly to its contributors and pensioners.
The minister expressed optimism that with the efforts being made during the outreaches, this goal can be soon realised.
On Saturday, over 60 residents met with the minister and his team and 40 of them were able to have their matters resolved on the spot. Dr. Singh has given a specific timeline for the remaining 20 to be resolved, much to the delight of the residents. Meanwhile, Vasco Jardene of Crabwood Creek was all smiles on Sunday as he had his issues with contributions dealt with. He explained that he made contributions to qualify for pension many years ago and received documentation to confirm such. However, when he reached the age of retirement, he was told that he did not qualify. He related that he has been back and forth for the past 12 years despite making over 800 contributions to the scheme.
“After about 12 years I think I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and I must thank the minister and the government. The minister is doing extremely good work and I never expect… Minister Singh would have been here on the ground. I thought it was going to be [the] social work minister or someone else but I am happy he is here and in the fields to address the concerns of the people,” he said. Wazir Hussain, a former Skeldon Estate worker expressed similar sentiments after he was told to follow-up with the staff at the Skeldon office regarding his contributions. “I am pleased with how my matter was dealt with by the Minister. I am impressed with the service that they brought out here. I feel proud and it prove to the people that they are doing their work and they have come to show people the facts and they are trying to help people like us. I respect that from the minister and team them and hopefully I get through with my contributions,” the 58-year-old man said.