No court appearances yet in months-old NIS pensions fraud

Months after a fraud of almost $900,000 was discovered in the Pensions Department of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) no one has been placed before the court although all the evidence reportedly points to the involvement of four former employees.

Police said they are continuing investigations but sources are questioning why the lawmen are not using the information that is readily available. Meantime the sources are lamenting that some 14 other employees are being penalized for the crime by being sent off their jobs even though they know nothing about the fraud.

This newspaper has been told that the four employees saw a way to “exploit the weaknesses” in the NIS system and they were able to print the pension books in the names of the dead persons even though the Records Department would have inputted information which indicated that the persons died. Sources said this was because of a weakness in the computer system.

Stabroek News attempted to interview acting General Manager of the NIS, Doreen Nelson but she declined to be interviewed by the reporter and opted for questions to be forwarded to her. Questions have since been sent to her and answers are being awaited.

Sources told Stabroek News that instead of sending home the employees, management at the NIS should seek to plug the weaknesses in the system to prevent the recurrence of such frauds.

Stabroek News has been told that vouchers are printed in Georgetown and then sent to the managers around the country for their signatures even though they do not see any supporting documents for the vouchers.

The sources questioned how the internal auditors hired by management did not highlight the obvious weaknesses at the organisation and once again called on managers to hire a consultant to ensure that the loopholes are filled. It was pointed out that the lives of several persons are being destroyed because management is seeking to “appear as if they are doing something” even though there is no evidence implicating the employees. The source described the sending home of the employees as “collective managerial bungling.”

This newspaper was told that the details of four dead pensioners were used to effect pension payments.

According to reports the fraud started early last year and it involved the printing of pension voucher books for the four pensioners who had died in 2006.

The source said the fraud was discovered in November last year and it involved claims being made for the four dead pensioners dating back to 2006.
Four ‘architects’
The four implicated employees were interdicted from duty last year while the 14 others were sent home earlier this month as investigations intensified into the fraud.

According to the sources, the four persons who were sent home last year were the architects of the fraud and they were the ones who duped the institution.

The sources said there was enough evidence to charge at least one of the four whose brother was the one who brought the fraud to light by taking a pension book he found in their house to the NIS. Stabroek News understands that this employee, who was fired as a result, cannot be located.

Meanwhile, the question was raised as to whether there is now a “global transfer” of information where data regarding deceased persons which is put into the Records Department will now show up in the computers used by employees of the Benefits Section. According to the sources if this is done it would prohibit the processing of benefits other than for funerals and that for survivors.

Additionally, apart from the networking weakness of the computer system, the sources said, only a certain number of persons can be logged onto the computer network at a time. Even though the NIS has more than one location in Georgetown and others in outlying areas, only 150 persons are allowed to be logged into the network at a time.

The NIS has some 300 computers, so at any given time only half of them are on the network.

Employees are as a result reluctant to log off their systems if they want to take a bathroom break as they would not be able to log on for the rest of the day on the system. Their reluctance comes also as a result of the fact that they would be asked to produce the amount of work they did for the day and even though the limited computer access is known they would be penalized if enough work is not done.

Further, the sources noted that there was a degree of safety when the cashiers could have compared the old National Identification card numbers to the NIS card number. However, with the introduction of the new identification card there is no relationship between the cards and persons have been turning up with fake identification cards, according to the sources.

All of the listed weaknesses and more must be addressed if management is serious about fixing the organisation’s problems, the sources said.

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