Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Chairman: NIB caught in time warp


Quizzed: Adrian Bharath, chairman of the National Insurance Board (NIB), responds to questions during yesterday’s Joint Select Committee meeting at the Parliament building, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. At left is the NIB’s executive director, Karen Gopaul. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

Mark Fraser

 The National Insurance Board (NIB) is caught in a “time warp”, where there have never been any drastic changes to the entity, thereby creating challenges to the smooth functioning of the system, NIB chairman Adrian Bharath said yesterday.

The NIB board was questioned by the Joint Select Committee (JSC) in Parliament yesterday at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

Parliamentarians shared their own experiences with respect to concerns they had with the NIB.

Bharath, who was appointed to the NIB in 2012, said when he first got there the facilities looked as though they were 20 years old and had not undergone any changes.

He assured measures were being implemented to bring about a more efficient system.

He said there were hundreds of claims backlogged, and there were over 800 matters before the appeals tribunal.

“I find it a little bit surprising that an agency which has been in existence since 1972 is still having these issues, that it has not had a cultural ethos established,” said JSC chairman Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir.

Opposition MP Patricia McIntosh shared the story of one of her constituents who was getting the runaround with respect to the processing of his claim.

She said the man worked all his life and needed his payments, and she was concerned he was being “short changed”.

McIntosh also took issue with the need for people over the age of 60 to visit the NIB office to submit a life certificate. 

She said she was compelled to do this and felt a receipt should be given to people upon submission.

Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne also spoke to a personal experience he had at the NIB’s Woodbrook office in pursuit of his wife’s maternity claim.

He said there was no number system, which was cause for confusion and the internal signage of the office was poor.

He added that one officer was charged with dealing with the claimant from start to finish, in that they would examine the form and then literally type a letter summarising issues for guidance of the claimant.

Browne said there were drawbacks to this system and the NIB should bear in mind its clients included the elderly, pregnant women and people recovering from serious illness.

Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan questioned why there was need for people over 60 to go into the NIB office.

She said there should be synchronisation with the Legal Affairs Office’s birth and deaths record department.

Seepersad-Bachan also spoke to the need for training with respect to customer service.

Mahabir questioned what was being done to deal with claimants whose contributions went missing from the records, resulting in delays in the processing of their application.

Bharath and NIB executive director Karen Gopaul fielded the majority of concerns and questions raised by the committee members.

They assured mechanisms were being put in place to address these concerns and upgrade the entire system.