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Public servants could benefit

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A proposal for interim payment of pensions to public servants who don’t have savings will be studied by the Finance Ministry this year.

The proposal was made by Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee chairman Brigid Annisette-George yesterday.

Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Michelle Durham-Kissoon, who said it was feasible, agreed to examine whether it could be done or not as officials of the Finance Ministry, Comptroller of Accounts and Personnel Departments, Auditor General’s Department, Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Public Administration and Communications appeared before the committee.

The committee began inquiry into processing of payment of pensions and gratuity to retired public servants and contracted employees.

Committee member Wade Mark noted delays on pension payments, including his own case.

Comptroller of Accounts Christine Laban said it could take four to six months to process pensions if all of a worker’s documents were in order and records are received by her division at least three months before employees leave. Three months was considered an urgent process, she said.

Laban confirmed there are currently 884 payments at varying stages of processing which will be paid. Another 934 payments which have complications require outstanding documents from ministries/departments.

With automation and software, processing can be expedited to one to four weeks. A request for benefit calculation software is being examined, she added.

Laban agreed with Annisette-George, who’d asked if some sort of interim payment would help public servants who have no savings. However, Laban said her division needed to engage stakeholders on the legal implications and pros and cons of such payments.

“It would have to be a policy decision from the Finance Ministry,” Laban added.

Finance’s Durham-Kissoon said the ministry has to follow up on this with legal advisers. If not, the ministry will have to develop a policy paper so all implications will be taken into consideration.

Saying the idea sounds feasible, Durham-Kissoon added, “Once interim payment doesn’t result in overpayment - but yes (such payments) will provide a lot of relief to public servants who’ve been waiting long for their pensions.”

Annisette-George asked Finance to try and explore, by the end of June for instance, if some sort of framework to do the initiative or not could be considered.

“Of course,” Durham-Kissoon replied.

Laban said ministries are told to give six months to a year’s notice on retirees, but there’s been dissatisfactory compliance by ministries.

Permanent secretary in the Prime Minister’s office, Maurice Suite, said some improvements were made by some ministries in paying pensions, but all have to keep working at it.

Durham-Kissoon said the World Bank, over 2005-2010, worked on public service pension reform but it’s not current policy.

Public Administration Permanent Secretary Claudelle McKellar said KPMG trained 192 officers in 2015-2016, including on pension delivery improvements. While some of the 192 may have left the service or shifted around, he said it’s not hard to find remaining numbers.

“We have plans for roll-out but there’s no time-line,” he said.

Finance’s Durham-Kissoon said a proposal was being done for roll-out.


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