–over 60,000 pensioners being paid monthly
THE National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the country’s premier social security provider, is on course to paying $27 billion in benefits for sickness, accidents and pensions for the year 2021.
This is according to Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Board of Directors, Ramesh Persaud, during his remarks at the NIS’ 2021 General Assembly and 52nd Anniversary celebrations at the Patrick Martinborough Multipurpose Complex, Carifesta Avenue, Georgetown, on Wednesday.
The scheme was established on September 29, 1969, to maintain a system of social security, through which enough income is secured to take the place of earnings when such are interrupted by sickness or accident, and to provide for retirement, through age, sudden death of a breadwinner and to meet exceptional expenses as those concerned with birth and death.
Additionally, a part of the scheme’s mission is to ensure that funds collected, which have to be used for future payments, are invested in such a manner that the economy of the country would reap maximum benefit.
The scheme currently pays about 60,000 pensioners and processes approximately 10,000 short- term claims on a monthly basis, accumulating to some $2.3 billion in benefits for sickness, accidents and pensions every month.
Persaud said that since the current board was appointed in December, 2020, there have been efforts to ensure that the quality of service extended towards contributors and claimants are enhanced.
“Customer service is not just about the please, thank you and excuse me or a good tone and a nice smile, but it is also about delivering the service expected by the beneficiary in a timely manner. A customer is only truly satisfied when they receive and cash their voucher or when their queries are resolved,” he said.
To this end, Persaud related that since taking up the responsibility as Chairman, the new board has worked assiduously to achieve some phenomenal accomplishments including introducing new policies for easier registration and verification of self-employed businesses, to accommodate registration of workers from overseas and to facilitate offices opening at extended hours during peak periods.
Highlighting some accomplishments of NIS, the Chairman said that the scheme has seen a reduction in pending claims from over 14,000 claims per month to less than 4,000 claims per month.
“We receive an average 5,500 life certificates for processing per month. We are at the stage where all life certificates received in the month are processed in the same month. This was achieved consistently for June, July and August 2021,” Persaud said, as he reminded that previously, about 4,000 certificates were outstanding monthly.
He also said that contributions with suspense have dropped from 1.4 million to just over 800,000, while appeals have been reduced from over 1,900 to about 1,500, with over 200 reserve questions determined by the Board, since December, 2020.
The NIS has also seen an increase in the number of compliances requested by employers, which is now averaging 1,500 per month as compared to an average per month of 600 in 2020.
“Of those received now, 90 per cent are resolved in the same month and over 80 per cent within less than three days, providing the business is up to date with their returns and payments.
“At the end of August, 2020, we had 90 compliances as compared to 550 at December, 2020. Of these, a substantial proportion of them are delayed due to issues of outstanding debts,” Persaud said.
NOT IN COMPLIANCE
Persaud related that one of the significant challenges faced by the NIS is the fact that some employers are compliant when it comes to the payment of contributions.
The scheme has over 20,000 registered employers, with approximately 5,000 considered active, but only 3,500 fulfilling their obligations in a timely manner.
But all is not well at NIS, as the scheme’s reserve has been facing tremendous pressure in the last two years and currently stands at $29.6 billion.
This has been credited to the downsizing of the sugar industry, delays in payments by employers, clearance of the claims backlog and now challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is also worthwhile to note that the scheme is now in a mature phase and is operating in a society where the average age of the population is increasing. The scheme’s actuarial advisers have made several recommendations for certain policies and structural change,” Persaud said.
The Board and Management of NIS are currently perusing means and mechanism of modernising the system to make it much more efficient.
Options are being examined to modernise the technological infrastructure, payment options are being expanded and contributors are urged to submit their contributions electronically.
Delivering the feature address at Wednesday’s ceremony, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, although commending staff of NIS for the tremendous work they have been doing, urged them to do better.
Dr. Singh said NIS has conducted 14 outreaches countrywide to offer assistance and deal with queries, as well as to make the services of the scheme more accessible outside of normal office hours.