National Insurance reserved questions should be heard in accordance with the rules

Dear Editor,

 

The General Manager, National Insurance Scheme (NIS) seldom entertains applications for late paid and unpaid contributions to qualify for benefits as though they had been paid on the due date.

Section 8(1) of the National Insurance and Social Act Chapter 36:01 states that the National Insurance Board (NIB) may delegate to any officer or employee of the NIB the power to carry out on its behalf such functions as the NIB may determine. Regulation 6(1) of the (Contributions) Regulations empowers the NIB to deal with late and unpaid contributions, which activity is done by the General Manager and suggests that she has been empowered by the NIB to so do pursuant to Section 8(1) of the Act. The regulation further states that for an applicant to have his/her application (there is no prescribed form) for late or unpaid contributions treated as paid on the due date for the purpose of benefits, the following must be satisfied: that the delay or failure in making payment must be shown to the satisfaction of the NIB not to have been with a) the consent, b) connivance or c) attributable to any negligence on the part of the insured person.

This means that where the General Manager does not treat unpaid or delayed contributions as paid on the due date for the purpose of the right to benefit, complicity between the employer and employee must be proved, or else the failure of the insured persons to exercise due care and diligence.

With regard to the latter, I must enquire if it is not reasonable for the employee of a statal or para-statal organization to presume that his/her employer will unflinchingly discharge its responsibilities to both state and employee. Also, restrictions are placed on an insured person viewing his/her contribution record at their place of employment. I use this opportunity to enquire as to what happens when contributions and complaints are made; do inspectors follow through?

I return to Regulation 6 (1) of the (Contributions) Regulations: where (a), (b) or (c) has been satisfied, the General Manager is compelled to treat the outstanding contributions as paid for the purpose of the benefit. It is my considered opinion that Regulation 6 (1) has been framed to protect vulnerable employees who have no control over the sins of omission and commission of their employers. Is it possible for a government employee, moreso in a military organization, to exert any undue influence over the conduct of his/her superiors if they fail to pay contributions at the correct rate and on the due date and/or fail to submit his payment schedule with accurate information? The answer is a resounding ‘No.’

If the General Manager does not treat the contributions which have satisfied the regulations as having been paid on the due date it defeats the spirit and intent of the regulation intended to insulate employees from unscrupulous and uncaring employers. It seems to have escaped the General Manager that the NIB may be held vicariously liable for the omissions committed by employers and not detected and acted upon by NIS inspectors in the discharge of their duties.

The contribution issue is described as a reserved question pursuant to Regulation 3(d) of the Determination of Claims and Questions Regulation. Now where a decision is made against the applicant the matter should be heard in accordance with the rules outlined in Regulation 4 of the said regulations.

The rules to determine a reserved question where the decision has gone against the applicant are observed in the breach, and the aggrieved person is denied the right to be heard, to be treated fairly and to be assured of natural justice in accordance with time-honoured legal practice.

This complaint is not to be viewed as an indictment of the competence and efficiency of the Scheme, but a plea by contributors for their applications/reserved questions to be heard in accordance with the rules.

Yours faithfully,

Brentnol Henry

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