For about two years, we have seen many exposés in the print media and heard much in the electronic media, about the plight of the National Insurance Scheme. One does not have to be a genius to realize that the National Insurance Scheme is in much trouble. The important thing to ask is who is responsible for this?
On October 4, the HPS and Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme announced that they were going after big business for hundreds of millions of dollars owed, and after the self-employed. These two categories are responsible for the situation of the NIS today, and for many thousands of workers not being able to access their benefits for illnesses or retirement.
Too many business people in various industries collect for decades and in the end declare bankruptcy.
Both the NIS and the Income Tax Department must be given greater powers in relation to the properties of NIS cheats and tax dodgers. If they wish they can borrow from the Private Security Act, whose laws on NIS are very powerful. For example, security service providers could face suspension or lose the licence to operate if found not having proper NIS or tax records, or not remitting taxes.
In the security industry, I am ashamed to say that even in the Association of Private Security Organizations (GAPSO), there are security company members who are known as NIS defaulters, which is why my membership is in abeyance/dormant. I am ashamed to sit with them as equals, when they are taking the workers’ national insurance contributions, and keeping their own parts as well. I am a co-founder, former secretary, treasurer and president, but today I refuse to sit in GAPSO. In this industry, some companies are known to tender for large security contracts, charging below cost, as they are budgeting their annual leave, NIS and PAYE as part of their profit-making scheme.
One so-called security company, about year ago was terminated by the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, after workers staged protests against the non-remittance of their NIS, as well as not getting paid for work done on numerous occasions. The same was done in relation to a government regional security contract a few years ago, and they got away with it and still could win the largest block of the regional tenders in this country at this time, a most shameful thing.
This makes the government look bad. The same owner was involved in a now defunct security unit for about a decade, which took millions of NIS dollars from workers. Today, those workers can get no benefits, and no one does anything, especially the NIS and government which are silent. Another company, which openly claims political protection, is renowned for its failure to remit NIS and taxes, and yet they can win large government contracts.
One company kicked out of another territory for NIS thefts, has operated in Guyana for decades, and the government knows its wholesale failures in relation NIS, and does nothing. It has done it to the Tax Department also. How is this possible in Guyana, a supposed nation of laws, with a powerful security act?
But what is the aftermath of NIS theft? I see it as leading to social chaos and widespread poverty, as a consequence of the culpability of the government. Due to the cabinet giving no objection to the cheap contractors, government thinks they are saving, but instead they are subscribing to social chaos. When people cannot access benefits because of greedy employers, they expect the government to fulfil their needs, to feed, house and clothe them. After illnesses or amputations or when they are medically unfit, and they cannot get their NIS, they expect the government to care for them, or they become pavement dwellers, walkers of the streets with bowls in their hands, a nation of beggars going from one place to another for some food, and in the end Guyana looks like a basket case. I blame government because of inaction and failure to give the NIS laws some bite.
I blame the government, as much as I blame the dishonest employers. They failed to act quickly, and they believe by begging or appealing to the conscience of the exploiters, they will get them to pay. I repeat, we need serious laws in place. No one must escape. I am 100% convinced that if the government tries to make the laws of the NIS more punitive in relation to defaulters, the parliamentary opposition will give solid support.
For Dr Luncheon, the cabinet and NIS management, bringing foreign consultants when we created a mess is a waste of my tax dollars. I do not waste my money and the government has no right to waste my money. Pay one of us 10% of the consultant’s fee and we shall tell you what to do, or create a voluntary board of like-minded persons such as this writer, and let us get to work, but we must have some power. It must not be a talk shop, or a political tool. I suggest this writer, Roshan Khan (RK’s), Mr Maurice Amres (GEB), Mr Dougal Kirkpatrick (PGS), Mr Gerry Gouveia (Roraima Group), Mr Norman McLean (retired Chief of Staff of the GDF), Mr Winston Felix (former Commissioner of Police), Chairman of the Bar Association, retired judges, General Manager of NIS, recently retired Chief of Staff of the GDF, and such persons. This should be a temporary advisory board, and strictly voluntary, etc, etc.
I know many pay for a few using the two books syndrome, or several books syndrome. In the security industry alone, the NIS is losing millions of dollars per month. Imagine, the rice millers, the contractors of roads and buildings. Why are the vendors everywhere not paying self-employed NIS, or the taxi driver, the bus driver and conductors, the owners of buses, and the owners of many small and medium-sized businesses. Check the registrations and charge from then. The law must be that the NIS can go back twenty years, not seven years only.