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Fraudsters target NIB

...15 cases sent to court

By Carla Bridglal carla.bridglal@trinidadexpress.com

THE National Insurance Scheme (NIS) experiences a "fair amount" of attempts to defraud it of benefits payments, executive director Karen Gopaul said yesterday.

In a brief interview with reporters at a workshop to sensitise employers to new NIS amendments yesterday at the Employer's Consultative Association building, Aranjuez, Gopaul said one of the reasons for all the bureaucracy involved in getting employee benefits approved, especially for worker's compensation and invalidity, was because the organisation had to use its own medical practitioners to verify claims.

"Employee injury is a benefit that pays a lot—almost two-thirds your salary. We do have cases like fraud, which is why we have to send people making these claims to our specialists for a determination," she said.

Over the last two years, the NIS has had 700 cases investigated for possible fraud, with 15 brought to the courts, and as per its latest financial report published online, two have been settled, with one resulting in an $800 fine and an order to repay $27,000 to the National Insurance Board (NIB).

The NIS is hosting sensitisation sessions because, effective March 4, contributions and benefits to the scheme will be increasing.

"NIS is to help people in times of need, so when something happens and you can't earn, you get back. But you need to get back enough to have an adequate lifestyle. From March, coverage will go up to $10,000, and in 2014 up to $12,000," she said.

Contributions to the scheme will increase 0.3 per cent to 11.7 per cent and then to 12 per cent in 2014. Benefit payments will increase by about 50 per cent over two years (as per inflation estimates between 2006 and 2010).

"By increasing the number of people we are covering up to the $10,000, we are getting more contribution income, so we will increase the benefits. In order to make the benefits relevant to the rate of inflation, we indicated that we may need to increase payments by 52 per cent to make them relevant today. We are doing it in parts: 25 per cent this year and 20 per cent next year," she said.

On the lowest end of the salary spectrum (average weekly wages of $200), an employee's contribution will be $7.80 per week, and the employer's $15.60; at the highest end (average wages $2,308), employees will contribute $90.01, and employers $180.02.

Gopaul added the NIB's Investment Fund now stood at about $22 billion.

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