Among the persons sent home on Wednesday pending investigations into the fraud at the Pensions Department of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was the officer in charge of the department, sources told Stabroek News yesterday.
Stabroek News was told that the officer, who was expected to retire shortly, and two others were the last remaining employees in the department prior to the discovery of the fraud. The other two employees included the supervisor, who authorized the payments, and a clerk.
Reports are that the department is now staffed by new employees and persons who were transferred from other departments and this could lead to operations in that department slowing down as the persons would have to learn procedures.
This newspaper was told that the workers were sent home after the ongoing investigations by the NIS revealed that some overseas pensioners may also have been defrauded by employees and the fraud now amounts to more than $900,000.
It is understood that investigators detected that life certificates of overseas pensioners were forged and payments were made. Sources said that the pensioners reside in the US and the signatures of a consulate, doctors and senior public servants were forged with false stamps being placed on the life certificates to make them seem authentic.
It was following the investigations and comparisons with other life certificates that the forgery was detected and the workers were sent home. While they would not have been found to be directly involved in the fraud the employees would have had to authorize the payments.
Sources had 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.
Initially this newspaper was told that four persons were the architects of the fraud as they exploited the weaknesses that exist at NIS.
Stabroek News has been told also that vouchers are printed in Georgetown and then sent to the managers around the country who sign them 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 sources described the sending home of the employees as “collective managerial bungling.”
This newspaper understands 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 sources said the fraud was discovered in November last year and it involved claims being made for the four dead pensioners dating back to 2006.