By Vishani Ragobeer
Some seven months after the new Board of Directors of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was appointed, about 11,000 claims from citizens have been resolved and efforts are underway to resolve the rest of the outstanding claims.
This is according to the Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, who was visiting a NIS outreach activity at the Giftland Mall on Saturday.
“This outreach is part of our government’s efforts to address a large stock of inherited challenges with the NIS,” he said, adding, “When we came into government, we recognised this is an issue that required very urgent attention.”
Illustrating the urgent attention needed, he said, was the thousands of outstanding claims which have been a cause for frustrations for citizens who contribute to the insurance scheme. And as such, he said the body has been zeroing in on these unresolved claims to reduce the backlog.
Importantly, too, he said that there has been a significant challenge with pensioners’ life certificates not being processed in a timely manner. These life certificates enable pensioners to receive their pension sums from NIS by proving that they have not died.
“If you submit your life certificate and it’s not processed in a timely manner, you would be unable to get your pension and you might even drop out of the pension roll.
“On average in each pension cycle, you would have about 3,000 life certificates that were not processed in a timely manner and this would result in a pensioner paying their pension late or a pension dropping off the pensioner’s roll,” he lamented.
But, with concerted effort placed on eliminating such challenges, he said that number has been reduced to zero and there is now no delay in processing these certificates.
This reduction, the Senior Finance Minister posited, is a direct result of the introduction of the use of WhatsApp video calls to allow pensioners, both at home and abroad, to provide contact details for themselves.
Still, he said that additional efforts are being made to provide more efficient services. It is for this reason that there has been a cabinet-level decision to engage in various NIS outreach activities. This is in an attempt to make NIS services more accessible to the people, according to the Finance Minister.
“We will continue to have these special outreaches going forward for as long as it takes to address the problem… I hope that we are able to get to a point where the backlog of cases is dealt with,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, he reminded members of the public that it is illegal for employers to deduct NIS contributions from their salary and not pay those to the insurance scheme or pay those in an untimely manner. In fact, he said that this has been one of the major concerns raised by citizens.
Dr Singh also said that employees who contribute to the scheme should keep their records and periodically request their contribution statements. These statements can be accessed online or at any NIS office.
Another outreach similar to the one held on Saturday at the Giftland mall will be held at the car park at Parika in Region Three on Sunday from 10:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs. Additional outreach locations and dates are expected to be announced later.