Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Imbert working to resolve pension problem


IN THE SENATE
 
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has given the assurance that he is pro-actively working to resolve the issue of the delay in pension payments.
Imbert was responding to a motion in the Senate on Tuesday, to the failure of the Government to address the critical staff shortage at the Comptroller of Accounts, Pensions Division, and its negative impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of prospective pensioners and persons entitled to pensions and gratuity payments, by Opposition Senator Wade Mark.
Imbert said this problem has been there for quite a while as he criticised the former government for taking no action to resolve it.
The Minister said there were a number of issues, including the increasing number of officers retiring from the public service.
He noted that in 2014, there were approximately 825 retirees, and in 2015, 972.
He said in 2016, it will be 843 and these statistics do not include persons who retire voluntarily, deceased, medically unfit, along with judges, legislators and so on.
“But from these figures I have just given, in 2014—2015, almost 2,000 persons retired from the public service, and this year we may have almost another 1,000.”
He said the number of staff at present at the Pensions Division in the Treasury was 81.
Imbert said that over the period, as the number of public servants who are retiring has increased, the number of staff at the Pensions Management Branch has remained constant more or less at 80/81, although the volume of work has increased.
“So the way this Government is dealing with this matter, because I am myself very dissatisfied, and I can speak on behalf of legislators, that I have been chasing gratuity payments to legislators,” said Imbert.
“I have asked the Parliament to check the flow of information from the Parliament to the Treasury Division, to ensure that the records have been sent to the Treasury Division. So that persons who retired or were retired as legislators, whether in this place or the other place in June 2015, when the Parliament was dissolved, can receive their gratuities.
I am completely unsatisfied or totally dissatisfied with the pace at which that is going. In fact, I met with the Treasury just last week, and urged them to ensure that legislators and other pensioners, public servants, daily-paid workers in terms of gratuity and so on, that we do something.”
Imbert said the delay was intolerable.
“The way we are going to deal with it is that we are increasing the establishment, that is the permanent establishment in the Pensions Division, by at least 20 additional persons, taking the staff up to 100, but that will have to go through all its paces, in terms of the service commission recruiting and so on. That will take a very long time,” he said.
In the interim, Imbert said, Government will increase the staffing in the Treasury Division to deal with this particular issue by at least 25 contract officers.
“So they will be able to clear the backlog, and we will return to the situation where persons can get their gratuity and their pension within one to three months. This is what I am doing as Minister and this is what this Government is doing. This is not a political thing. This is something that affects everyone and I want to give this Senate an assurance that I am proactively dealing with this matter. I am well aware...it is unacceptable. It is intolerable, and we are going to deal with it decisively and firmly,” he said.